Marie-France Leblanc

CEO at Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia

Bachelor of Journalism, 1992

I couldn’t believe what a difference it makes in those lives.

Marie-France LeBlanc was still new to the world of public relations in 1995. She had worked as a journalist with the CBC right after graduating from King’s, but an opportunity to work with the media on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office during the G7 Summit in Halifax seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. It was trial by fire and it was the beginning of a new career. And while jumping from covering the story into a public relations role did cause her some concern, Marie-France says: “Communications, regardless of which side you’re on, is incredibly important in everything you do…Everything I learned in journalism school has always served me one way or another throughout my career.”

A few months after the G7 Marie-France found herself wrangling the national and international media at a huge demonstration in downtown Montreal. Thousands of people had been bused in from across the country in support of the “Non” side, the federalist side, in the Quebec Referendum. It was a moment of high drama that just got a little higher.

“All of a sudden,” she says, “there was a bomb threat. So then I had to evacuate the area, get all those reporters out of there!”

To be sure, not all of her public relations gigs have involved bombs and world leaders. But Marie-France says PR has kept her involved in major stories, satisfying one of her greatest needs – an “insatiable curiosity” she discovered she had while at King’s.

Marie-France continued working in public relations and when her family started to burgeon (she has five children) she hung out her shingle and worked from home. She got into volunteering, developing a strong desire to give back to the community. When she went back to work outside the home she joined the Canadian Cancer Society as NS Director of Marketing and Communications. That turned into a job as Director of External Relations for the society. And then she heard about the top job at Habitat for Humanity in Nova Scotia.

Habitat for Humanity is all about affordable housing. The international organization uses volunteers, establishes community partnerships and for those who get to move into one its houses, there is a sweat equity requirement of five hundred hours. But when they move in something amazing happens says Marie-France.

“I couldn’t believe what a difference it makes in those lives. You can think about it intellectually, but until you see the emotion they express you can’t understand it.”

Marie-France, as CEO of Habitat for Humanity NS still picks up a hammer on occasion. But her main job is to set the strategy for the organization and make sure they have the right partnerships to achieve their goals. And those goals are lofty. Marie-France wants Habitat to be building twenty houses a year by 2020.

“I’d like to think that what I am doing has a greater good,” she says.

And she is passing that along. All five of Marie-France’s children have volunteered at Habitat’s Re-Store. Her two oldest have hammered and sawed on Habitat build sites.

“I feel very lucky that my skill set allows me to make these contributions to individual families and society.”

Posted: Oct. 2016

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