It’s a busy and exciting time for True North, the Strathmore society that earlier this year rebranded from Wheatland Crisis Society and last week welcomed new executive director Linda McLean.
Carol Manson McLeod stepped down from that role that she accepted on an interim basis but, although living in Canmore, which is quite a way to work, stayed on for more than two years to tackle the challenges the society faced due to the pandemic.
McLean joins True North at a time when there is a dire need to support an increase in assistance to those affected by domestic violence, but she is experienced in working to create a safe environment for those in need of care.
In her more than 25 years of leading non-profit organizations, McLean has a demonstrated history in areas of social work, counselling, housing and emergency shelters.
Armed with degrees from the University of Calgary, with a bachelor and masters of social anthropology, a doctorate in philosophy and a masters in social work, plus a Compassionate Inquiry Certification from the Gabor Mate Institute, she has served a broad range of organizations both here and on the West Coast.
McLean thought of a career in academia, and did teach at the University of Calgary for a time, but chose to pursue a non-profit path.
It took her to United Way of Calgary and Area working with 65 agency contracts, the Alex Community Health Centre, Calgary Homeless Foundation, Calgary Drop-in and Rehab Centre, four years as executive director of Inn From the Cold, and what she refers to as a bit of a left turn, as president and CEO of Fort Calgary at the time it was looking to expand its inclusive history.
During her two years in B.C., her management positions included focusing on housing and homelessness with Island Health in Victoria as COO of Own Place Society, and similar work for the City of Vancouver as director of its Arts, Culture and Community Services portfolio.
Back in Calgary in 2020, McLean served as executive director of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, a position she held for three years.
True North offers her some unique challenges in caring for a growing number of people from a much wider geographic area than originally planned for. The current 7,000-square-foot facility houses up to 25 people in seven suites with shared bathrooms.
McLean says that around 70 per cent of clients are Indigenous and more than 60 per cent of those are children. Uprooted from home and losing out on friends and education, they remain in a holding pattern until the time is right for exiting. Originally built for a 21-day crisis stay, many remain at the True North centre for longer periods.
Hence the need for additional space, and a new building has been designed by Riddell Kurczaba Architecture that will provide 36 self-contained units, plus some permanent affordable housing above a floor of retail that will help provide needed revenue.
McLean says as soon as funding is in place the project is construction-ready; governments are keen to create more social housing and the Town of Strathmore is very supportive in helping solve challenges caused by the low vacancy rate.
True North has a staff of 30 social workers dedicated to providing emergency crisis intervention, outreach and public education for all those affected by domestic violence, and McLean is proud and eager to help them in their goal of interrupting the cycle of abuse.
Fans of Princess Diana of Themyscira — better known as Wonder Woman — will be excited to visit and take a selfie with a massive seven-and-a-half-foot statue of the Superhero that arrives at Bow Valley College on Oct. 12. Created for DC Comics in 1941, she will reside on the third floor of the college to welcome students as they arrive for classes. Alison Anderson, dean of Business, Technology and Centre for Entertainment Arts, says: “Wonder Woman is a powerful figure, she exudes confidence, and is a wonderful representation of inclusivity in the creative industries.”
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]