Meet a TVA Volunteer

In their own words…

At our 2007 Annual General Meeting, the Toronto Vegetarian Podcast featured some of the amazing things our volunteers have been up to, including interviews with three outstanding volunteers about why they got involved.

 Listen Now!

NaadiaNaadia Ahsan

Naadia’s involvement with the Toronto Vegetarian Association takes her into the public eye. She’s quickly becoming one of our most trusted vegetarian outreach volunteers, staffing the TVA table at big events like our own Vegetarian Food Festival, smaller student fairs on university campuses and everywhere in between.

She first learned about TVA through the Food Festival last year, which helped her come to terms with the fact that eating meat went against everything she stood for. She had pushed back against going veg for a long time out of fear of how others would react, but the festival showed her there was a community that is so much stronger than the negative comments she anticipated.

Lucky for us, she jumped in and applied to volunteer with TVA! Vegetarian outreach was a natural fit for Naadia because she is passionate about educating people. “The more facts I heard about what animal agriculture does to humans, other animals, and the planet, the more I felt like vegetarianism is an obvious choice from a moral standpoint… I want to empower more people by giving them the facts to choose being veg, and to let them know that a community as amazing as TVA exists and we’ll help them get there.”

In her third year studying Urban & Regional Planning, Naadia is also a newly appointed executive member of the Ryerson Veg*an Club, where she is in charge of design and maintenance of the website. Like a lot of us vegetarians, she also enjoys cooking, especially the Quinoa Chili she’s shared with us below!

Steve Leckie


Steve Leckie has a very long history with the Toronto Vegetarian Association – in fact over 20 years! If you’re one of thousands upon thousands of people who have used the Vegetarian Directory to guide you to Toronto’s wealth of vegetarian restaurants and other businesses, you can thank Steve! He envisioned and created the very first Toronto vegetarian directory, and joined TVA’s board of directors for many years.

As if creating a brochure that now has a distribution over 55,000 annually isn’t enough, Steve has accomplished other enormous endeavours for TVA. He was one of the key volunteers that created the Vegetarian Tastes of Toronto cookbook, which sold over 7,000 copies! The project was enourmous, requiring all-nighters to recipe test and put it all together.

While the cookbook is now out of print and Steve has since passed on coordination of the Veg Directory, he is still actively involved with the Toronto Vegetarian Association, running the Veggie Challenge program.

Steve’s dedication to the vegetarian cause extends beyond his connection with TVA and into his home life as he maintains a community house of eight people who share vegan meals (some of whom also help out with the Veggie Challenge! Visit for more information). He also volunteers with the wonderful group, Not Far from the Tree, where he climbs city fruit trees in order to gather produce that gets donated to charity.

You probably guessed it based on the fact that he recipe-tested an entire cookbook, but Steve also has a way in the kitchen, and particularly enjoys shopping at farmers’ markets and cooking with what’s in season. Try out his recipe for homemade almond butter below.


James Smart

What hasn’t James done for TVA? He’s volunteered for years at outreach events, he’s worked in many different capacities at the Annual Vegetarian Food Festival, and most recently he’s become a regular member of the Wednesday Resource Centre crew.

You’ll be surprised to hear that with all of that volunteering, he still finds time for his interest in fitness, working out six days a week and regularly meditating as well. He also likes spending time in the kitchen, something that became an interest of his when he went vegetarian nine years ago and began tweaking recipes and putting his own spin on things.

One of his greatest pleasures is being around people, whether it be camping, volunteering, house parties or playing board games at Snakes and Lattes, which is one of the reasons he joined TVA in 2002 and began volunteering in 2003. He says he likes helping out because he gets to learn new things and meet great people.

So stop by the Resource Centre on a Wednesday evening so you can meet James for yourself!

DavidHDavid Hunt

One of our most common volunteer opportunities is tabling at outreach events, and many of you have probably done just that at least once! Well if you have, you can thank David Hunt. David is one of our trusted set up and tear down volunteers, meaning he’s the man responsible for driving the materials to and from the TVA office and setting them up at events like the Green Living Show and Pedestrian Sunday.

He started doing so because of his compassion and concern for animal suffering and his desire to see more people evolve to a veggie way to lessen that suffering. He says “TVA is the best way to do this because of the long history of reaching out to the public to send the message of trying to live a more peaceful and compassionate life, and the commitment of great volunteers who run the TVA. I know TVA makes a big difference in getting people educated and informed about the veggie life and in embracing compassion for animals.”

Before or after spending many of his Saturday or Sunday mornings or afternoons getting TVA tables ready for these important outreach events, he enjoys reading, playing pool, golf and he’s recently taken up guitar too! He’s recently made a career switch to the Wind Energy Industry after working for 23 years as a Registered Massage Therapist.


Shivangi Trivedi

What the world needs is more people like Shivangi whose contagious enthusiasm and outgoing personalities inspire people to try a vegetarian diet. Shivangi is yet another of our allstar outreach volunteers who tables at community festivals and trade shows, telling people about the benefits of a plant-based diet and answering questions about the how-to of going vegetarian.

And as a vegetarian since birth, Shivangi is certainly well positioned to answer people’s questions! She says that her most memorable TVA experience was the first time she volunteered with us, at a table at Pedestrian Sunday.  She recalls that even though it was raining from time to time, there were still people who stopped by the booth and wanted to talk to so many people about the benefits of vegetarianism. “That was the first time I ever felt that I could change something about the sorry plight of countless innocent animals and that felt great.”

IMG_0064Rachel Power

If you’re a TVA outreach volunteer, by now you’ve probably seen the Meatless Mondays postcards we distribute at outreach events to encourage people to commit to cutting meat out of their diets at least once a week. The person behind those gorgeous postcards? Meet Rachel Power!

Rachel has done design work for TVA that has included the Meatless Mondays postcards and the Vegan Bake-Off recipe books. She began volunteering with TVA because she wanted to give back after finding support and information from the organization when she was making her own transition to a vegetarian diet.

In addition to volunteering with TVA, Rachel is also our Lifelines editor, so if you’re a TVA member you’re likely seeing the results of Rachel’s awesome work land in your mailbox every three months.

If you like what you see in Rachel’s design work, take note! She works as a freelance graphic designer with her own business, Power by Design. Rachel gives back to the community in more ways than one, by offering special design services for non-profits that support animal rights and green initiatives.

We’re looking forward to seeing what beautiful work Rachel will surprise us with next! Thank you Rachel!

Udai Srinivasan

Every non-profit organization dreams of having someone with fundraising expertise to keep the organization thriving and able to afford the best resources to reach the largest audience possible. We’re so fortunate at TVA to have Udai as a board member and volunteer who does just that!

Udai comes to TVA with a professional fundraising background. He completed his MBA at Schulich with a specialization in non-profit management. Now, he finds himself back at York University where he works as a major gifts officer. As both a board member and chair of the Fundraising and Membership Development Committee, Udai has used his experience and knowledge to build a culture of giving and launch innovative new fundraising campaigns that have kept momentum going as we started new programs last year like Compassion Week.

When not spending countless hours building TVA’s capacity, you’re likely to find Udai hanging out at his local Starbucks. Oh wait, even there you’ll probably still find him with his laptop in hand, dreaming up some new initiative to build TVA’s financial stability.

Lisa Blonder-Ohlenkamp

Lisa O, as she’s affectionately referred to at TVA, moved to Toronto only a year ago, yet we’ve had the delight of getting to know her quite well in this short period of time!

She’s a regular Saturday Resource Centre volunteer, as well as a frequent host of the Toronto Vegetarian Podcast, and she coordinated Toronto’s first Veggielicious festival in spring 2011! We’ve been so thrilled to meet and work with Lisa as she’s brought such wonderful enthusiasm and initiative.

In addition to helping TVA, her and her husband, fellow TVA volunteer Sean, are foster parents for the Toronto Cat Rescue, and she’s got her own blog too! ( While we hope to continue to work with Lisa for years to come, she admits her dream is return to her hometown and open up her own vegan bakery and cafe. In the meantime, you can continue to listen to Lisa chat about her plant-based adventures on the TVP on Saturdays, or drop into the Resource Centre to meet her in person!