Connecting People and Building Resilient
It's a Two Way Street

Board of Directors




Leah Schwenger, Chair

I am so pleased to be the new chair of the board. I’m a fourth generation Hamiltonian. I was a teacher with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board for 30 years and spent the past 11 years as the Principal of Dr. J. Edgar Davey School in the Beasley Neighbourhood.  I joined the Welcome Inn Board so I can continue to contribute to make Hamilton the best place to raise a child.



Bob Charko, Past Board Chair

Having been the Board Chair for the past several years, I now move into my last year on the board in the role of Past-Chair. I am a lawyer who has been practising law in downtown Hamilton for over thirty years, through which I have knowledge and experience in dealing with the needs of our community.  I also have a family of three grown children, a grandson and a spouse of over 30 years. Family is important to me and much of my spare time is spent with them. An enjoyable activity of mine is to run outside to keep me physically and mentally fit.

I believe in our Hamilton community and that everyone can play a role in making the City better. Our North End community is a special area. It has a lot of potential. Welcome Inn treats people as each having a contribution to make whether providing or receiving services. It is this practice, while treating everyone with respect and dignity, that makes Welcome Inn so unique.

The Board of Directors is made up of people with different talents that help shape the general direction of our Welcome Inn team in providing services and programming needed by the community.  I am pleased to have a part to play at Welcome Inn. Together with the dedicated staff and volunteers the Board is looking forward to leading Welcome Inn to future growth in its programmes and activities.



Gale Payne

I joined the Board of Directors in 2011 and currently serve as secretary and as Chair of the Personnel Committee.  I am a retired Aquatic Supervisor with the City of Hamilton.  I was honoured to be asked to join the Board.  I always found that Welcome Inn fits its name – it is very welcoming.  I find that the community members, volunteers, and staff are very warm and accepting of people for the way they are.  One feels very comfortable in attending activities and putting forth their ideas.  I used to work at Bennetto Recreation Centre and find the North End community as a whole very open and friendly.  Since retiring, I’ve taken up curling and tai chi.


Sarah McDonald CHRL, Secretary

To start, I am very excited to be a part of the Welcome Inn Board and am looking forward to working with the team and the Welcome Inn! I am born and raised in Hamilton and have a great love for this city.  I’ve seen the city grow tremendously and am excited to work with everyone to continue to make this a fantastic city to be in.  I’ve lived in various cities throughout southern Ontario over the past 15 years – Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener and Guelph; but am happy to be back settled again in Hamilton. Being closer to my family and friends is such an important part of my life.  I work in the East end and live in the West end – and always love seeing new parts of the city—especially the North End now! I have a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Ottawa, with a major in Human Resources and a minor in Accounting.  I was a part of the French Immersion program during my schooling in Hamilton – however, without much French these days, it’s a little rusty. I look forward to attending events through the Welcome Inn and meeting many new faces throughout the community. Thank you for having me!





Sarah Lawson

I am very excited to be a part of this special organization. I am a lawyer who works for Legal Aid Ontario as a duty counsel providing legal advice and representation to low-income individuals at various steps in a court case.

Outside of work, I am passionate about health and fitness. I have a first-degree black belt, and I enjoy doing yoga and outdoor activities such as hiking, rollerblading and playing golf.

Hamilton has been a major part of my life, from my time as a student at McMaster University to living and working for a number of years in downtown Hamilton. I am serving on the Board at Welcome Inn to help give back to this great community that has been such an important part of my life and development as both a person and a lawyer.


Peggy Savage

I am truly pleased to join the Welcome Inn Board. The work that the Centre does is impressive on so many fronts and our city is fortunate to have this valuable resource in its midst. As a lifelong Hamiltonian I can honestly say I have never been more enthused about this city and the people who call it home. I have worked as a freelance writer for the Hamilton Spectator and various other publications. I am the author of a history book, published in 1990, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of St. Joseph’s Hospital. Nine years as the marketing director of a local retirement home has enriched my understanding of the issues and concerns faced by our senior population. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in both English Literature and Classical Studies from McMaster University. Over the years my volunteer commitments have included working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, United Way, West Hamilton Wraparound, the Hamilton Council on Aging and McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine Tapestry Program. I look forward to meeting the Welcome Inn community and working with its board and staff. My goal is to make a positive contribution to the work that we all do and I  wish everyone a warm season full of connection at Welcome Inn.