“I clearly remember the day I was sitting at the Harbour Quay and I met Carol Gauthier for the first time. After sharing with her my musical experiences in Victoria as a member of a 300-voice choir, we decided to have a similar musical group in our own Port Alberni. That was the beginning of the Barclay Sounds Choir,” says Sylvia Springer, a well-known Valley citizen, who has dedicated over two decades not only to provide music to the community, but to work on behalf of the seniors as an advocate by representing them at some seniors organizations.
“I love singing and I have done it since my early years when I used to sing at church choirs and school performances.”
Born in Vancouver, Springer moved to the Comox Valley in 1985 and later, after the passing of her husband in 1986, she went to live in Victoria and, subsequently moved to Port Alberni in 1997.
“I moved here because of one of my daughters”, says the mother of five girls and a boy.
Her association with the seniors in Port Alberni began at the Elder College when she met Ken Whiteman, who was, at that time, member of the Fir Park and Echo Villages board, and his wife Lois, an activity program staff member, who invited her to conduct meditation sessions in the seniors’ home.
“To have these sessions on a weekly basis was a very rewarding experience for me. The calm and relaxing atmosphere that meditation provides to people is very therapeutic”.
This volunteer experience allowed Springer to learn about the organization and soon after to become involved with the operation of the facilities by joining the board of directors of the Alberni-Clayquot Continuing Care Society (ACCCS), a position she held for 14 years.
Later on, she co-founded the Fir Park Village/Echo Village Foundation, a society that aims to fund raise and assist with the acquisition of items not included in their budgets.
Since the opening of Heritage Place over eight years ago, she has been part of the board of directors of this assisted living home and is currently their president.
By combining her love for music and desire to advocate on behalf of the Valley senior population, Springer has become a name to be reckoned with. She enthusiastically endorses policies that benefit the residents’ needs as well as programs that make their lives more enjoyable.
As a President of Heritage Place, she is often seen taking part at events that are organized by the staff of the home, from the recognition of their volunteers at special programs, to the celebration of Mother’s Day event and, of course, the always popular performances by the Barclay Sounds Choir, which sings regularly for the tenants of the home and as well as other seniors homes of the Valley.
When asked about her deep interest in the seniors’ population, she stated that “our senior population is changing fast and we have to advocate for them in order to continue improving the quality of their lives. They appreciate what we do, as a Board, and that, in itself, is an incentive for all of us.”
Springer has also been actively involved in the monthly “Food and Philosophy” group with Winston Joseph for the past 16 years, a meeting that is attended by well-known community speakers and leaders who bring their comments and expertise to share them at their meetings.
“Before our municipal election, for example, all the candidates were invited to speak, and stated their political platform and answered our questions”, she says. “And recently, local figures, such as the publisher of the Alberni Valley Times and the mayor of the city, took part in our meetings”, she adds.
She’s taken courses at the North Island College a few years ago and found it a very rewarding activity.
“Poetry is a special form of literature that allows you to express something in a different way. Actually, I write about many things, from what I see through my apartment window to life and death.”
To add to her busy calendar of activities, she is currently the president of the Strata Council.
No doubt that this community has benefited enormously from Sylvia Springer’s dedication to serve it with love.