Maureen Brechin has volunteered in several different organizations over the past few decades. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Maureen Brechin has volunteered in several different organizations over the past few decades. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

VALLEY SENIORS: Maureen Brechin is making a difference

Port Alberni woman is a big part of the city’s giving spirit

  • Jul. 25, 2018 6:00 a.m.

We often wonder what makes this community so special. We tell visitors about the many physical landmarks that this valley has, including its beautiful natural surroundings we are blessed with and the lovely places they should visit and enjoy. But also, we do want to share with them the human resources of the community, the services that are available for the young and the old; from leisure activities to health aid and comfort; from support groups, to seniors programs, etc. These programs and activities are carried out mostly by the giving spirit of volunteer citizens.

Maureen Brechin has been part of that giving spirit of Port Alberni for many decades by sharing her time and effort with various local groups. “Volunteering and being involved in my community has always been a commitment of mine and I have been involved in many local organizations,” she says.

Brechin, who was born in Kelowna, BC., began her schooling in a little school in Winfield, now called Lake Country. She arrived in Port Alberni in 1957, the year after her father had come to the Valley with a construction company that built the pulp and paper mill (now Catalyst Paper). He decided that Port Alberni was a good place to raise his family.

While attending high school and working weekends at Woodward’s Food Floor office, she met Larry Brechin, a produce department worker. The young couple got married in 1966 and had two children, Laure-Ann and Kevin.

She was a stay-at-home mom during the time her children were growing up, but she became a volunteer for the school system in various capacities, followed by her involvement with the “Meals on Wheels Program”. Also, she continued her post-high school education and decided on becoming a pre-school teacher and completed her Early Childhood Education at Malaspina College.

“I was involved in my local church with the children’s programs as a volunteer and started a pre-school program there. Shortly after I was hired by the Victoria Catholic Diocese and helped develop and implement programs for children and families for 17 years. I also continued my studies in psychology and counselling.”

In the early 1980s she became a member of the board of the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association, a very exciting project between the Sisters of St. Ann and the Cowichan District. Providence Farm, as it has come to be known, continues to be in operation today as an independent, working, secular organization serving adults and seniors with a variety of mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities and age-related illnesses.

Brechin’s active life was interrupted abruptly when she was diagnosed with systemic lupus after suffering a stroke on a plane coming home from a conference in Ottawa in 1986. For the next 10 years, she struggled with serious health problems. However, her persistent attitude and desire not to give up, led her to educate herself on the disease and she sought out others with chronic health problems.

“Lupus, at that time came under the umbrella of the Arthritis Society, so along with several other people we started a local group and for the next 10 years worked to improve the lives of those suffering with various forms of arthritis. One of the programs we offered was “The Arthritis Self -Management Course”.

“This program was developed by the Arthritis Society to give those with arthritis skills in managing their disease. Along with several other local people I took the training offered by the society and taught the course locally for eight years.”

Brechin, who has been involved in a long list of activities to support individuals and organizations in this community, continues working to assist others. Currently she is an active member of “PAGO Grannies” a local group that supports the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which aims to assist grandmothers in Africa.

She is also involved with the Alberni Valley Historical Society; the AV Hospice Society; and the Sunshine Club, as its past president.

Happily married to Larry for the past 52 years, she speaks proudly of her husband, children and the services she has provided to her community.

“I have been blessed with a very supportive and involved husband.

“We have two great children, three wonderful grandsons and recently, on our 51st anniversary, we celebrated the birth of our first great-granddaughter. Our children live in Kamloops and people often ask us why we do not move there. Larry’s family came to Port Alberni in 1912 and he has lived here all his life. Port Alberni is home and we have a very happy life here.”

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