About Us

Grow. Connect. Belong.

These three simple but powerful words capture the essence of New Leaf Link—they’re at the heart of all we do. Our educational programs are uniquely tailored to our rural participants, their caregivers and their families. At its core, New Leaf Link is a friendship project. We offer Arts, Healthy Living, and Community Participation programming in health, fitness, nutrition, art, music, photography, dance, drama, adaptive technology and community participation.

Does this sound like your kind of community? We’d love to hear your story and talk about finding a fit for you and your family. Simply click on the ‘Connect’ link. We’re here and ready to answer any and all of your questions.


New Leaf Link (NeLL) has been operating in South Frontenac Township since 2009, but the story of NeLL begins much earlier. It is my personal story of trying to figure out how to help Nicolas. It’s been a long journey, but all along the way, we’ve been accompanied by family and friends who have helped us grow and reach out to others.

Nicolas was born in the 1980s and he was first diagnosed with autism in Japan at age 4, at a time before early interventions and autism services were readily available. Once Nicolas entered high school I realized there would be few prospects for him, especially in rural Kingston, yet the country life was therapeutic for both of us.

We knew that Nicolas wasn’t the only person facing life with few prospects once high school was done. Nicolas graduated in 2007, but in 2006 I had already begun talking with other parents, friends, and colleagues about how we might provide services beyond school in our home community.

Dr. Howard A. Smith (founding Director of NeLL) came into our lives as Nicolas was transitioning into high school. Without Howard’s support throughout the years until his passing in 2015, New Leaf Link would not exist or be as vibrant as it has become today.

The first 4 participants at NeLL were graduates of Sydenham High School: Amy, Joel, Nicolas, and Stefan. And so the first classes, in Equestrian and Arts, were launched. What became clear during those first NeLL classes was that my hopes and dreams for Nicolas were not so very different from those of any parent.

We all want our children to have opportunities, connections, and feel a sense of belonging within a community.

Those hopes and dreams became the roots of the friendship project that has grown into the NeLL of today. NeLL’s first logo is an organic metaphor that was inspired by Nicolas’ love of the natural world. An oak leaf was the model for the logo.

~ Karin Steiner, Founding Director


Meet our Board Members

Contributing Organizations

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United Way

In June 2020, New Leaf Link received grant approval from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Response Fund (ECSF), administered by United Way KFL&A. This one-time ECSF grant enabled NeLL to provide wellness checks, virtual programming and in-person programming when possible to reduce isolation of developmentally disabled adults in rural communities in South & Central Frontenac.

Community Foundation for Kingston & Area

In July 2020, New Leaf Link received grant approval from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Response Fund (ECSF), administered by CFKA. This grant enabled New Leaf Link to redesign the NeLL website to make it more functional and interactive for participants, and to integrate online tools to provide effective and inclusive program delivery to keep our New Leaf Link community connected during the pandemic.

Community Foundation for Kingston & Area

In the fall of 2020, New Leaf Link received a grant for a Simultaneous Program Delivery Model through the CFKA’s Fall 2020 Community Grants Program. This emergency operational funding supports key program resources from April through to October 2021.

South Frontenac Township

Over the years, the Township of South Frontenac has supported New Leaf Link through the Community Project Grants Program. Municipal funding has been used to pay for transportation for participant outings, to purchase exercise equipment and games, to expand our program to 3 days and establish our first ever summer program. This funding allows our (dis)abled adults to participate in the life of the community by learning about places of interest and exploring local activities together. New Leaf Link is grateful to the Mayor and Council of South Frontenac for their support for our program.