Julie Kingstone and Keenan Wellar

Julie Kingstone and Keenan Wellar

Years in the Nonprofit Sector: 25
Based in: Ottawa, ON

LiveWorkPlay is an Ottawa-based charitable organization that helps their community to welcome people with intellectual disabilities to live, work, and play as valued citizens. Founded in 1995 by the husband and wife team of Keenan Wellar and Julie Kingstone, what started as a small organization has grown into a staff of over twenty employees that support more than 150 individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Ottawa area.

Recently, LiveWorkPlay became one of the first organizations to join OPTrust Select, the new defined benefit pension offering for the nonprofit, charitable and broader public sectors in Ontario. Here’s what Julie and Keenan had to say about joining the plan:

What retirement benefits were you previously offering your team?
“We dabbled with RRSPs, but employees often ended up just taking the equivalent in salary. We realized that if people were to stay in this field for their working lives, this wasn’t going to provide a sustainable future. We also had a great staff member leave for a job in government, partially because they wanted a pension. We recognize that keeping good people for a long time is the best path to good service delivery, and we hope this will allow our team to stay with us longer.”

Why did you decide to join OPTrust Select?
“We had established a few goals for the organization: pay people fairly, provide decent health benefits, and provide a pension. We were able to deliver on the first two, but the last piece we knew was going to be harder. Needless to say, we were pretty excited when we heard from the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) that something was coming on the pension front. The timing of it was incredible – we had just solved the two other problems and never thought we’d solve this one because it was out of our hands. Then it just arrived!”

What do you think this will mean for your employees?
“Joining OPTrust Select means our employees will now have a much clearer picture of what their future will hold. A defined plan is going to benefit everyone. Overwhelmingly our staff said it was something they want – not one said they didn’t want to pay into the plan. It’s not too expensive, but people are happy with the level of benefit it will offer.”

One of the biggest benefits of OPTrust Select is that members can purchase past service to increase the value of their pension. Do you plan on buying back past service?
“Yes, absolutely we are going to. We’re prioritizing it like it was a mortgage – it’s just as important if not more important. Some of our team has been here more than fifteen years, and we plan to emphasize the value of it to them too.”

On a more personal note, is there anything you’re hoping to do with your retirement?
“Hopefully we’ll have some time for new experiences, but also the option to focus on the things you’re most passionate about. This is more than a job so I can’t imagine we’ll stop working, but more opportunity to volunteer and work on particular angles that motivate us, and hopefully sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way!”



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