The 2023 Women of the Year Awards: Rising Stars – Winner – Carissa Konesky

One of the winners of the Rising Stars category of the 2023 Women of the Year Awards is Carissa Konesky, development officer, Union Gospel Mission; special projects manager, ShEvalesco.

Carissa Konesky
Development officer, Union Gospel Mission; special projects manager, ShEvalesco

“I don’t remember ever learning about mental health in elementary or high school,” says Carissa Konesky, who grew up in Burnaby struggling with anxiety and body image issues. Having been involved with Girl Guides since she was five, Konesky wishes she had access to the kind of workshops that nonprofits like ShEvalesco host.

As its part-time special projects manager, Konesky connected ShEvalesco with Girl Guides. In 2020, she helped put together the I Am Tenacious program to support female-identifying and non-binary youth with resilience, mindfulness and setting boundaries. 

“We had over 100 participants,” she says of the four-week program, which, after securing a grant from a law firm, was able to continue for another year. It now runs under ShEvalesco’s Investing in YOUth series. “Getting to see how much it impacted the youth and how responsive they were was really rewarding,” she adds, noting that the programs have reached over 3,000 people.

Konesky earned an associate’s degree in global stewardship from Capilano University in 2017. She then completed a bachelor’s in psychology and gender, sexuality and women’s studies, followed by a certificate in nonprofit management from SFU. 

She joined Union Gospel Mission (UGM) as a co-op in 2018. The Downtown Eastside charity has over 300 staff and seven locations offering alcohol and drug recovery support, subsidized housing, youth programs and other services.

Konesky grew from a part-time development coordinator managing annual donors who donate $1-500 per year to an officer handling mid-level donors who give $500-5,000 a year. But given how UGM runs entirely on donations, she’s still trying to navigate the effects of COVID and inflation on people’s capacity to give, continuously emphasizing that “every little bit counts.”