It’s a time of mingled excitement and sadness for Jackie Smith.
The executive director of the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation will be moving on to a new post in the new year – as executive director of the BCIT Foundation in Burnaby.
“It’s a newly created position,” said Smith, adding the foundation is seeking to help and grow funding for education through the institute in the same way that the PAH foundation has focused and consolidated support for health care on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
“I’m an alumnus of BCIT – it almost feels like going full circle in life and career for me,” she said, adding that Kathy Kinloch, president of the institute for the past nine months, was a former chief operating officer for Fraser Health.
The ‘face’ of the hospital foundation and its team leader and team builder for the past 11½ years, Smith noted she’s not one to change jobs frequently, and she’ll miss working with her colleagues.
“It was an incredibly hard decision,” she said. “It was an opportunity that presented itself, and, honestly, there would be very few I’d look at. But this checked a few of the boxes I was looking for in my life and, at the end of the day, it checked the right ones.”
If this were not a momentous enough event, later this month Smith will marry her long-term running partner – and life-mate – Scott Jacob, a construction company principal, in a mountaintop ceremony in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Scott and I also tie into BCIT,” she said. “We were both there at the same time, although in two different programs – we never met, although he claims to have spotted me in the hallways. When we were introduced by a mutual friend, 12 years ago, he could name the month and year.”
Smith has no plans to move from the community – “this is my home” – and she vows to continue being involved in the evolution of the Peninsula, including at Peace Arch.
“It is my hospital, after all, although – touch wood – I haven’t had much need of it as a patient.”
Fortunately for all concerned, Smith’s transition from her current work to the position at BCIT is to take place slowly over the next three months, PAH foundation board chair Art Reitmayer said.
“Jackie and BCIT have been incredibly gracious in terms of the transition – she won’t take on the new role until January,” he said.
A committee to find a replacement as PAH executive director has just been struck, he said.
“I don’t think any of us were expecting this opportunity to come up for Jackie. We do have some potential individuals who are interested, but it’s early days yet.”
Reitmayer paid tribute to Smith’s leadership skills, which he’s seen firsthand since he joined the foundation board in 2010.
“She’s built an amazing team and the foundation has accomplished some massive projects, all under her guidance,” he said, noting it’s typical of Smith’s style to emphasize the team over the individual.
“We’ve done a lot,” Smith said, adding that high points include the foundation raising $24 million in four years for the audacious Partners In Caring program launched in 2006.
She’s confident the foundation will have raised between $60 million and $65 million by the time the current ER expansion – and a comprehensive and related series of steps to meet future needs at the hospital – are complete.
“The organization, in 2003, was raising $2 million a year, and 42 per cent of that was the (WinFall) Lottery. Today, we’re raising $5-10 million a year with no lottery.”
Part of that success has been consolidating and building on the genuine support the hospital has in the community, including emphasizing planned giving, developing partnerships and emphasizing the input of health-care staff in fundraising.
“We have a tremendous team of caring, empathetic professionals – and they tell the story so much better than we can.”
Smith will allow, however, that her own tenacity and optimism has allowed her to meet many challenges, including the unexpectedly lagging performance of the home lottery – for years a highly successful fundraiser – in 2011. Personal appeals to the public ensured that the shortfall was not the $2 million anticipated.
“People rallied around us and, in the last 10 days of the lottery, we were able to mitigate that by $1.2 million,” she said.
“We could have done nothing, but we chose to get out in front of it and ask the community for help. We believed it was our responsibility and that the community would respond, and it did.”
Smith said the role of a leader calls for positivity and courage.
“The stars have to align for all those projects to happen. Your vision has to be long – you have to be way out there, but every day you have to chip away at that vision and get one step closer.
“I’m tenacious. I’m absolutely an optimist, but I’m also a realist. At the same time, everything is possible if you have the right pieces to put together. If it’s the right thing to do, it’s absolutely do-able.”