Joy in Serving Others
As Justina Penner reflects on her 21 years at Communitas, she realizes that she has seen a lot of change. The organization has expanded in terms of the number and type of programs it delivers, the number of people it serves, and the number of people who work here. She has seen a change in the workforce, noting that it is sometimes a challenge to find the right staff for the work we do. She has seen a change in resources with budgets always getting tighter. Yet despite all the change she has witnessed, she notes that one thing has remained the same.
“Communitas has stayed true to its values in providing person-centred care, believing in the whole person, and celebrating that,” she says. “We believe that people have value in the eyes of God and that is important.”
Justina came to Communitas with years of experience in the mental health sector, working in the community of Powell River. When she moved to Abbotsford and came to work with Communitas, she applied that experience to her role as a service worker in the Supported Independent Living program. She became a team leader overseeing mental health programs, affirming for her the joy she finds in encouraging and supporting others. And for the last 19 years, she has served as the Chief Human Resources Officer. It is work that she finds deeply satisfying.
Justina firmly believes that the reason Communitas has grown is because the organization has excellent staff who provide quality care day in and day out. Maintaining that excellent workforce also means supporting staff so that they can do their jobs to the best of their ability and reminding them regularly that they too are valued and appreciated.
“I’ve learned how much I love watching people grow, that gives me joy,” she says. “It’s been a privilege to get to know so many amazing people, both the people who work here and the people we serve.”
This April, Justina will leave Communitas, retiring to Vancouver Island where she and her business partner at Rainforest Pottery are moving their pottery studio. Jeff Hirch will take over the role as CHRO, and Justina, who hired Jeff over 20 years ago, knows that she’s leaving her work in capable hands.
“He is just and fair, he really listens,” Justina says with a smile. “My only advice to Jeff is to keep praying and rely on God for guidance. I know that he’s committed to the values that Communitas holds.”
At the end of the day, for Justina, it really does come back to that: the value of person-centred care. As she prepares to move on to her new adventures, she is thankful for the opportunity she has had to serve with this organization.
“I’ve never been bored. I’ve loved serving alongside others,” she says. “It has been a really great season in my life. I thank God for that.”