Meet Maria Rio, our new Director of Development and Communications

We’re thrilled to welcome Maria to The Stop’s leadership team! Maria comes to us from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, where she’s built momentum for its work defending the civil liberties, human rights, and democratic freedoms of all people across Canada.

Maria will serve as The Stop’s Director of Development and Communications. She’s excited to continue deepening our relationships with supporters, reaching new communities, and grounding our work in the principles of Community Centric Fundraising.

As an introduction our community, Maria has shared her personal story of food insecurity and what inspires her about The Stop’s mission and vision.

Hey! I’m thankful you are on this site learning about our work and supporting our mission. Here is why I believe in what The Stop does.

When I was nine, my mom, sibling, and I immigrated from Mexico to Canada and applied for refugee status. My mother was escaping state-sanctioned gender-based violence and an extremely abusive marriage. Like many immigrants, my mom’s extensive education and work expertise did not “transfer over.” She was left picking up babysitting shifts to try to get us out of the refugee shelter and into a rental home.

Surviving was hard. We got our refugee status, and my mom began a job in insurance, but we still faced food insecurity every day. Luckily, there were many charities that helped us. I was skipping school to go to food banks so we would not have to eat butter spaghetti. I was scared, I was alone, and I had a big responsibility. The food bank was in a basement of a church and people would line up to receive a box full of food. While the people were kind, we often received food items that simply did not work for our family, culturally or quality wise. Even then, it was a lifeline we could not pass up. 

Years later, when I was nineteen, I saw people fundraising for the same charity that ran the refugee shelter I stayed at for six months with my family. I was immediately interested, applied for the job, and got it! That first job lead to my devotion to raising millions of dollars for numerous critical programs.

My lived experience, and now work experience, has made me fiercely passionate for fighting for justice. I am committed to working diligently to improve the lives of people of various marginalized and often inter-sectional groups.

My story with food insecurity is not unique. Right now, there are many people in our community facing the same struggles accessing quality food in a welcoming, dignified way. The dedicated support of advocates like you is what ensures stories like mine: a transformation from surviving to thriving, and an interest and capacity to make an impact in my local community.

I can’t imagine how different my life would be if there had not been local charities to make sure vulnerable community members were not left behind or worse, considered expendable.

During this emergency time, when so many people are dealing with unexpected job losses and financial crises, I am thankful for The Stop’s supporters, who are taking action and advocating for the improvement of our city and our systems.

I am thankful to be taking on the role of Director of Development and Communications at The Stop so I can continue making an impact on issues so close to my heart and my lived experience.

Even before COVID, the need was high: 1 in 7 Torontonians struggled to put food on the table (a number that is much higher for Black and Indigenous families). I know we can count on you to help us continue our work long after the pandemic is over. When COVID is gone, food insecurity and the harmful systems that have long enabled poverty will still need to be fought against. Thank you for joining us in this mission.

If you want to learn more about how you’re making an impact, or if you have any other questions about our work at The Stop, just send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

In solidarity,

Maria's signature

Maria Rio
Director of Development and Communications