We are so grateful to all who joined us on September 30th, 2020.  As a community that supports the potential of girls and youth, you helped us raise over $1,000,000 in support of Big Sisters’ programs and celebrated six amazing women who exemplify the Big Sisters’ legacy and shape our future.

Susan Mendelson

People have felt my passion and excitement for the organization and realized that this is an organization that does such great work that they want to put their hat on that post as well.”

Susan Mendelson’s career in food began with cheesecake. She moved out to the West Coast from Toronto to attend UBC and worked at The Vancouver East Cultural Centre to pay for school. When that wasn’t enough, Susan sold her baked goods to theatre patrons during intermission. Her cheesecake was a hit, and even had CBC Radio calling to find out, Who is this Susan Mendelson, and why is everyone in the city talking about her cheesecake?! Just like that, Susan and her cheesecake recipe were on the air. What was meant to be a one-time guest spot grew into a regular feature, television segments on CTV, the birth of Vancouver’s most revered catering company and many beloved cookbooks. All before the age of 30. 

Susan inherited a passion for food and cooking from her grandmother. “My grandmother taught me that I could make anything I wanted,” she recalls. “I think that translated into: Anything you want to do in life you can, when you put your mind to it. You can’t get better mentored than that!” Susan never intended to work in the kitchen. She had been studying theatre until her professor-turned-friend convinced her she’d never have a career on the stage, and turned her attention to another passion – social work. But Susan couldn’t ignore the countless requests for her culinary skills. She also remembered her grandmother’s regrets about never opening up her own little bakery and teahouse due to the constraints of raising children. Childless at the time and unwilling to have the same regrets, Susan decided to go for it. She and her then partner, Deborah Roitberg, opened the doors to The Lazy Gourmet, a gourmet take-out food store and catering company. But her desire to be of service to her community remained, the roots of which stem from her childhood. She credits her mother and grandmother for setting the tone for philanthropy and volunteerism.

It was fellow Luminary and friend, Linda Parsons, who introduced her to Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland over 20 years ago. Susan immediately fell in love with the organization and its down-to-earth community, but quickly discovered where she could be of use after attending her first gala. “They were all in sensible shoes,” she says. Under her leadership, the gala committee added the missing sparkle and quickly grew the fundraiser by $300,000.

Susan continues to serve on our Honourary Advisory Board and is as dedicated to Big Sisters and the powerful transformation that occurs when a Big and Little connect. She is a powerhouse behind the scenes who makes things happen with her energy, expertise and infectious enthusiasm for our organization, which has undoubtedly attracted many other talents to lend their hands, too. We thank her for her years of service, her spirit and her cheesecake.

Our 2020 Luminary Award Recipients

Her Honour, Janet Austin
Joanne Brown
Kay Gray
Linda Parsons
Patricia Shields
Susan Mendelson