Kees Ruurs – Board Chair, Community Engagement Committee
Even as a young boy growing up in The Netherlands, Kees knew that he wanted to work in nature, helping people enjoy and appreciate their natural surroundings. Since receiving a Masters degree in Park Management, Kees has had an extensive and impressive career, which has led him to the Yukon, to Oregon, and now to Salt Spring. Before retiring in the summer of 2013, Kees served as Parks and Recreation Manager with PARC and CRD Senior Manager. Together with his author wife and their extended family, he lives on an acreage where they run a booklovers’ bed & breakfast, Between the Covers. Ever since his teenage years, Kees has been involved in volunteer organizations, most recently on the board of directors of the Salt Spring Conservancy. Kees is excited about applying his passion for bringing people and organizations together to explore common ground and interests.
Lesley has been a frequent visitor to Salt Spring since 1982 and moved here permanently with her husband, Victor, and daughter, Camille, in 2001. She has an MA in English and worked in the publishing business in Calgary and Victoria for many years as an editor and managing editor. She is also the co-author of several popular prairie gardening books, but admits to finding gardening heaven here on Salt Spring. Lesley has always enjoyed working as a volunteer to support her community and has continued to do so since arriving on Salt Spring. She is thrilled to be working with the dedicated Foundation team as it explores exciting new initiatives to strengthen our wonderful and unique community. Lesley is chair of the Communications Committee.
Kate Merry – Secretary and Chair, Donor Relations Committee
Kate was raised in the New York City area and has a BA from Fordham University and a Masters in Library Science from Rutgers University. She moved to Canada to work at the University of Manitoba as Extension Librarian. Following her marriage to her late husband, they moved to Toronto, back to Winnipeg and then to BC. As a member of a rapidly disappearing group—stay-at-home moms—Kate continued the volunteer work she had begun as a teenager at a local hospital. She has worked on the local, provincial and national level for a variety of not-for-profits, including the Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Licensed Women Pilots), Canadian Parents for French and Osteoporosis Canada. Kate and her partner, Gérald Tibbits, moved to Salt Spring in 2006. She recently spent six years on the Board of Directors of the Island Arts Centre Society (ArtSpring), including the last two years (2012–14) as president. Kate has also served on the Foundation’s Communications Committee since 2009. Kate has two children and two grandchildren, all of whom live in the Lower Mainland.
Eric van Soeren – Treasurer and Chair, Finance Committte
In addition to his role with the Foundation, Eric is the trustee for several large trusts and a compensation fund. Before taking on that role, he was the BC Job Protection Commissioner, where much of his work was with financially troubled forestry- and mining-related companies. He has a BSc and an MBA in finance and is a Chartered Professional Accountant. Eric and his wife Julie have had property on Salt Spring Island since 2001 and moved here permanently from the Lower Mainland in 2008. Since moving here, Eric has been active with the Salt Spring Sneakers running club and has been on the Board of the Salt Spring Island Sailing Club for the past seven years, first as Treasurer, then as Commodore and now as the Past Commodore. He is also the Treasurer of the Gulf Islands Seniors Residence Association, which operates Meadowbrook Seniors Residence. Eric is looking forward to greater involvement in the community and to serving as Treasurer of the Salt Spring Island Foundation.
Brian Lawson – Chair, Governance Committee
Raised in Toronto, Brian received his undergraduate degree from Queen’s University and his MA in political science from UBC. After volunteering for two years as a teacher trainer in Mozambique, he earned a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and became a lawyer at a non-profit community legal clinic in Hamilton, Ontario, representing low-income clients. Subsequently, he practised refugee law, employment law and civil litigation as a partner in a law firm in Hamilton, Ontario. In the latter part of his career he focused on representing a variety of labour organizations and associations within Ontario, including in his capacity as in-house counsel. In addition to representing membership, he provided legal and strategic advice to executive boards and boards of directors. Over the years, Brian maintained ties with BC, frequently visiting and ultimately purchasing property on Salt Spring Island in 2009. In 2012 he and his spouse, Philippa Tattersall, retired to Salt Spring Island. Brian believes in community involvement and engagement. He has been a board member of various non-profit organizations and has provided legal advice to a number of community interest groups and boards. Brian enjoys travelling, hiking, bird watching, choral singing, and spending time with his two grown children.
For more than forty years Gordon has worked as a facilitator, trainer and mentor. Originally trained as a community development specialist, he worked with neighbourhood associations and non-profit societies to help citizens define and develop a better social future. In addition to providing direct service to groups and individuals, he has also occupied a number of management and board governance roles. As a university professor and practicum coordinator Gordon has taught and mentored hundreds of students to prepare them for various careers in the helping professions. Gordon and his wife Claire are parents to four children and grandparents to seven grandchildren, and their Salt Spring home is often the scene of family gatherings. As a couple they together enjoy travelling, gardening and fitness classes. For twenty years Gordon rowed competitively and hopes to return to the sport.
Ellie Langford Parks – Director
Ellie Langford Parks is a social justice educator, action researcher and community organizer. Her educational background includes a M.Ed. (Leadership Studies)–Community Leadership and Adult Education for Social, Cultural, and Environmental Change. Ellie’s work history includes 12 years as a retail store owner in Alberta and 20 years working in the BC community development sector. Previous work roles include BC coordinator/action researcher for the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, trainer with Leading Communities BC, program manager for BC Centre for Non-Profit Management and Sustainability, and program director for two non-profit professional leadership development series. As a long-term sessional instructor for University of Victoria’s School of Public Administration, Ellie’s focus is on community development, Indigenous issues, conflict resolution and social change. She is also a trainer for the Canadian Red Cross Respect Education violence prevention and response program. A Salt Spring resident for 23 years, she has led local action research projects on housing, seniors, mental health, and sexual assault and consent, and facilitated numerous change processes. As an active citizen /volunteer Ellie is on the SD 64 Aboriginal Education Council, a number of Indigenous/settler relations committees and is on the SSI Foundation’s Vital Signs Steering Committee.