Ksan House Society’s longtime executive director retired this year due to the realization that life was short and that she didn’t want to have to fight to get things done, which has been the case recently.
“The projects I was doing were for Terrace – if the city was the single stumbling block, why was I bothering? The whole life is too short thing, combined with frustration was what did it,” she said about what pushed her to retire in mid-June.
And that realization came after two health scares in the last few years and while recuperating, she was continually stopped by obstacles, making the job that much more difficult.
“While I was recuperating from the latter, I was working on the 20-unit housing project and getting grief from the city, I realized I had been fighting with the city throughout the renovation of Ksan Place and then with the 20 units,” she said.
“I had been with Ksan for about 15 years and partnerships with them (city) in the past had been great but the last couple years were one fight after another. “
During her 15 years with Ksan as executive director, she encountered many changes on the job and a higher demand for services across the board.
When, government cutbacks and service cutbacks hit at the same time Terrace was in a tough place economically, she said. Poverty has been rising also.
Ksan ran out of room first at the Transition House so that was her first big project and a lot of fundraising and a few proposals did the trick there, she said.
“It still is a one-of-a-kind building with all the services under one roof,” said Sabo, adding that puts Ksan in an enviable position, nationwide.
Two big things came with the building: for one, it has an address, whereas most transition houses don’t share their addresses with the public, Ksan does.
“We’ve had a couple incidents related [to that] but the RCMP have been great at responding,” she said.
And the building came with an empty basement so the Donation Room was born, she said.
“The community gave us so much support, it was and continues to be amazing,” said Sabo.
“I remember once, sitting in my office, trying to figure out how on earth I was going to find funding for a project, almost feeling like I was alone in the world, that nobody cared and a little old lady (I can say that now that I am one!) came in with a bag with one frying pan in it.
“She didn’t need it and she thought someone else might. It was little things like that, that made me realize people do care, they do want to help and it’s all the little things that make the big ones come together.”
Shelter numbers started to go sky high just as the Transition House was finished so Sabo kept on going and put together a proposal for BC Housing, she said. The federal government and BC Housing’s priorities at that time were the “hard to house,” so Ksan was fortunate to be able to put some one bedroom apartments and a new emergency shelter in the same building, she added.
“We have had a number of other communities come through the building [to see it] – again, because it’s one of those enviable layouts for people in emergency housing,” said Sabo.
“People can stay at the shelter, staff can evaluate if they’d be a good fit for the apartments and then, more recently, when we got Mountainview Apartments, they can move on to there when they are ready.”
“As good as it feels to have two of the best buildings in the country under my belt, I think my two biggest ‘feathers’ are securing the Children Who Witness Abuse Counsellor program and Ksan Place because those two have the most potential to make change happen.
“Kids who see, or who have been a part of, abuse are more apt not to fall into that lifestyle when they are adults if they see a counsellor when they are young – to learn when their minds are still open to change, that violence isn’t necessary in a relationship.
“Ksan Place because it’s grassroots programs that make the largest impact in people’s lives. Ksan Place has the potential to work with the people that fall through the cracks in a friendly, community atmosphere.”
She added that “community programming” means it doesn’t matter if you make $85,000 a year or $6,000 a year, the programs are for everyone.
Sabo said she has the distinction of being Terrace’s first “hippy chick” and she’s always thought the world should be a fair place.
“I think that’s what got me started in the non-profit world. If everyone was given the same playbook when they were born and they started on the same level playing field, I’d probably have ended up in an accounting office,” she said.
“But, given that’s not the way things happen – it’s what made me who I am – helping someone who couldn’t speak for themselves, speaking out about injustices, trying to make change happen.
“I remember sitting on the floor with my back at the doors where the council chamber is now – it was a courthouse back in the day, because I absolutely was going to talk to the Judge before court one day; I was going to try and convince him the young man that was to appear before him that afternoon wasn’t a bad kid – it was life’s circumstances that were the reason he was there. There were a lot of young men and women I spoke for and their stories made me who I am today.”
Her biggest regret is not getting the youth shelter/drop-in opened.
“We had the property and commitment for the capital to do some updates to the building and were working with Kermode and a solid plan with some good government support but a member of the youth committee convinced us to involve the wider group,” she said.
“That just naturally slows things down and I decided to go ahead with my retirement and
let the committee and the new executive director take that to fruition.
Sabo’s successor is Amanda Bains, the society’s administrative assistant for a number of years.
“She doesn’t have the same grassroots background as I do but she’s got a quick mind and she knows the society inside and out and I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings to the community,” said Sabo.
She said she’ll take some time for herself, might be involved with the Happy Gang Centre and will be a farmer along with her husband and sons in Old Remo.
“I always had a lengthy to-do list; I regret not getting to the bottom of that but realized, realistically, that would never happen.”
“There is a very capable generation behind me – I look at it as just leaving some things for them to do!” she said.