As a correctional officer, Charmaine Hammond began her career working with people behind bars. But rather than seeing the worst in people, Hammond discovered a drive to make the world a better, kinder, place. Since graduating from Sheridan’s Correctional Worker program in 1985, she’s launched a successful career as an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist. Hammond says her time at Sheridan taught her that everyone deserves respect, especially when helping them solve disagreements.
“I’ve realized the conflicts that happen behind bars are not really a lot different than those which occur in the boardroom,” she says. “People are people. People often disagree on a human level – our environment is just one aspect.”
Her desire to channel her career into a positive force earned Hammond a spot as Sheridan’s nominee in the community services category for the 2016 Premier’s Awards. Handed out each November, the accolades celebrate excellence among graduates of Ontario’s colleges.
Hammond became interested in conflict management after a decade working in adult and youth Correctional facilities. She earned her MA in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University in 2002, all while continuing her own business ventures, which she started in 1997. Today, she is the president of Hammond International Inc., a firm that helps business leaders navigate change and create positive workplaces. She’s travelled the world as a motivational speaker, presenting her message of kindness and respect to more than 200,000 people in five countries. She’s also a founding member of the Evolutionary Business Council, a group of 200 socially conscious entrepreneurs. She helped fundraise for Fort McMurray fire relief and has donated more than $100,000 of her speaking and consulting services to charity. She’s also an award-winning author of several books including On Toby’s Terms and two children’s books. She’s contributed to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, co-authored GPS Your Best Life, detailing strategies for success in life, and wrote Bounce Forward – Building Resilient and Inspired Teams. She’s also earned praise, including the Parent Tested, Parent Approved award in 2013, for her children’s book about her rescue dog, Toby.
Hammond adopted Toby, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, in 2007. After he started locking himself in the bathroom, breaking the toilet lid and tearing shoes out of closets, she learned he suffered from separation anxiety. She realized he needed a job to stay calm, so she began volunteering with him to offer pet therapy in mental health settings. Then she and Toby drove across North America in an RV on the Million Acts of Kindness and Paws Across Canada tours, delivering workshops to students on the importance of being accepting, kind and respectful. Toby’s adventures inspired her to write books featuring him, including On Toby’s Terms, and Toby the Pet Therapy Dog and His Hospital Friends, and Toby Says be a Buddy, Not a Bully. She says everyone can benefit from hearing how giving back to the community can help overcome challenges.
“I knew the stories needed to be shared,” she told Ovation in 2011. “They have a way of connecting people through the heart.”
The Premier’s Awards will be presented in Toronto on Nov. 21.