Garth Homer clients Richie Goldie

More than a job for 37-year Garth Homer staffer

Marie Harker worked with clients at the Garth Homer Centre. In reality, it was a job akin to hanging out with friends and family.

Technically, Marie Harker worked with clients at the Garth Homer Centre. In reality, it was a job akin to hanging out with dear friends and family.

Harker has been on the ground working with developmentally disabled people for more than a generation, long before government agencies or large non-profits stepped in.

After 40 years on the job and 37 at Garth Homer, the centre’s longest running staff member by far has finally retired.

“There are so many memories,” Harker said at Garth Homer, shortly before staff and clients held her a retirement party. “This job is never boring. It’s not easy. It can be intense working with people … but its never boring.”

She started out in 1973, fresh with a master’s in fine arts. Harker led the Arbutus Crafts shelter workshops in Royal Oak, where clients weaved baskets and crafts for sale to the public, and was first through the door when the Garth Homer Centre in Saanich opened in 1976.

Now 70, Harker guided generally older clients through arts and crafts work – crafting, painting, knitting and weaving – activities to focus creativity and to keep minds active. Some clients have been with her since day one, such as Richie Goldie, who brought her flowers at her retirement party.

“I’ve known Richie since 1973, and his whole family,” Harker said. “I’m called the dinosaur around here. Who else has lasted this long?”

Harker has witnessed the change in the style of care and recognized early that developmentally disabled adults were living longer, and that would have ramifications in the present day.

Garth Homer adjusted its programming for aging clients, called Pathways, with comfortable chairs and slowing things down.

“We look at the individual and ask what they want to do, ask what is important to you?” Harker said.

“Pathways is about being happy, it’s our mantra. I can infect people with the joy of knitting because it’s what I love. I teach crocheting, painting big banners, and needle felting. It’s what I love to do and I pass it on to others.

“At Arbutus Crafts they weaved and made baskets and sold it to the public. But methods and theories of programming for developmentally disabled changed,” she said.

“The shelter workshops allowed more interaction with the public. I hope a variety of that evolves in the future.”

Harker retired unexpectedly late last year when her husband had a health scare, and she started caring for him full time.

“My husband’s health hit us hard … but it made it easier to separate myself from here. That’s one positive thing out of this, she said laughing. “(Leaving here) would have been very hard.

“I went off at Christmas and didn’t come back. My new job was keeping my husband well. I would have retried anyway, but with some warning. It was abrupt.”

Cathy Victor, team co-ordinator for Pathways, called Harker “the Energizer Bunny.”

“Her energy is contagious. She has been with the clients for so long it’s like family,” Victor said. “It’s going to be a big loss for us. She has so much history with these guys. She knows them so well.”



Just Posted

Growing protests over U.S. school shootings felt in Victoria

Greater Victoria School District officials confident about student safety in local schools

Latitude 48 Paddling Club races through Victoria waters

Local team clinched victory in Nanaimo to kick off season that will see them compete in Hawaii

Reconciliation and Mozart features four arias and narration

Net proceeds of the March 24 performance go to Reconciliation Canada

Brentwood Bay hosts 24-hour cancer fundraiser

Monster and Sea 24-hour Paddle is grassroots fundraiser

Greater Victoria police busy with St. Patrick’s Day calls

Victoria police respond to 82 calls for service

Victoria airport terminal expansion under way

Videos posted showing work in progress over the next 27 months

Most people in B.C. too ‘lazy,’ ‘apathetic’ to prepare for disasters: poll

Less than half of those surveyed aren’t insured for earthquakes and wildfires

Chris Hemsworth goes surfing in Tofino

The Australian actor donned a full body wetsuit to catch some waves on Vancouver Island this weekend

B.C. hospitals receive boost for dental surgery

Disabled people needing general anesthetic wait too long, Adrian Dix says

BCHL Today: Wenatchee Wild on the ropes and Smoke Eaters reeling

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

A frustrated Trump lashes out at special counsel Mueller

In a series of weekend tweets naming Mueller for the first time, Trump criticized the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

B.C. teachers’ union to ask for higher salaries to help with shortages

B.C. starting teacher salaries are $10,000 to $15,000 lower than Ontario or Alberta says B.C. Teachers’ Federation president.

Few political staffers on Parliament Hill report sexual misconduct: survey

Sixty-five of the 266 survey respondents said they had personally experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment.

Experimental pot lab sprouting cannabis-infused drinks, new edibles

Nestled inside Canopy Growth Corp.’s sprawling marijuana facility outside Ottawa is a special laboratory

Most Read