PHC celebrates 20 years of service

People for a Healthy Community

Submitted Article

Tuesday, June 30 2015

On Saturday, June 20, as part of their 20th Anniversary Celebrations, People for a Healthy Community (PHC) hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Tea at the Commons.

Gabriola’s Naomi Wakan, Nanaimo’s Poet Laureate, opened the event with a reading of a poem she had written especially for PHC for the occasion.

One of the founding members of PHC, Annette Sweeney spoke about the origins of the organization, which began as a wish list in the minds of a few young women who were horrified to learn of a fatal incident involving a young mother and her innocent child.

“All young mothers ourselves, twenty years ago, we tried to understand what could possibly possess someone to be driven to such a dark place… It made us feel sick in our hearts and we felt we needed to do something. We brainstormed and identified loneliness, isolation and depression as being very real issues that could have played a part in this unhappy story. In our discussions it became apparent that young mothers were not the only people whose needs were not being met. We heard stories of children who were not getting enough to eat, seniors living on fixed incomes who spent their lives alone because they couldn’t drive and they couldn’t afford the cost of a cab. Our young people needed more things to do to keep them safely occupied here on the island. Serious issues such as suicides, mental illness and domestic violence were all happening here.”

And so PHC was born. Sweeney noted that today it has become the heart of the community…the place where good things are always happening. And she thanked “all the wonderful people who have kept the dream alive.”

Heather Anfossie, President of the Parents Advisory Committee, spoke about the food programs PHC runs for the school, and Doug Cavill, President of the Gabriola Lions, talked about the importance of community partners.

Then Board Chair and MC, Charlie Cheffins spoke to the reason for the event, recognizing the beating heart of PHC, the volunteers who donate the most precious of resources - time and energy. They prepare food, stock shelves, package products, clean, and interface with people and so much more. They are out in numbers every Monday and Tuesday for the weekly food bank, three times a week for the soup socials, monthly for the Seniors’ Lunch Program, monthly and daily with the Food for Thought School Lunch Program, seasonally with the Spirit Feast at Christmas time, and regularly with many of the Circle of Care programs such as Drivers to Doctors, and various support and outreach groups.

Executive Director, Brenda Fowler, noted that none of PHC’s programs would be possible without the dedicated hard work of the volunteers.

Tea and cake were served by the Board while volunteers and guests listened to live music by Paul Gellman, Gary Holmes, Bruce Hartridge, Phil Owen, Jerry Ellins and Fred Apstein.

It was a lovely afternoon enjoyed by all.

PHC would like to thank everyone who helped make the event a success and especially Naomi for supporting our organization and creating such a lovely commemorative piece.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or contribute financially should visit our website at or contact Brenda Fowler at 250-247-7311.