We are very pleased to announce that Mulberry PARC resident Marie Klassen has been named the BC Seniors Living Association Resident of the Year for 2016. With applicants from across the province, Marie was selected for her important contributions to the community, her ability to inspire other residents, promoting community involvement as a champion for social causes, and for making valuable contributions to the quality of life of other residents.
Marie Klassen has been an active community member of the Mulberry for the past 10 years. Marie says it has always been her nature to help others and to strive to create positive social change. She and her husband owned a construction business in Winnipeg and both of them had a passion to help others. They hired people who had difficulty finding work and they also opened their home to missionaries and their children.
She has always loved knitting and sewing, and is never without a set of needles and wool. Marie would knit in the bistro and often have residents comment on how they hadn’t knitted for years and didn’t think they could do it anymore. She started to think of a way to change that. Marie approached the Recreation Manager about starting a knitting group. He didn’t think there would be interest but she said “leave it to me … I’ll organize it”. That was the start of Knitting-for-a-Cause.
Marie’s goal when starting the program was to bring residents together, to socialize and knit. It has now been 6 years and a group of approximately 30 women meet weekly. Their efforts have produced thousands of items which are all donated to groups in need.
Benefactors have included Journey Home (resource centre for refugees), Union Gospel Mission, Covenant House and Seniors in Need in Burnaby. One year Marie counted the number of knitted items that were donated after the annual craft sale and there were over 1,000 pieces.
Organizers of the Journey Home program have provided knitted items to refugees who have arrived in Burnaby with next to nothing. The Knitting-for-a-Cause group has provided several items to the centre. Marie notes that the refugee men who arrive from a hot climate wear their knitted toques frequently as they adjust to work outside in a cooler climate.
Recently, a connection was made between Marie’s group and Kat Thorsen, a Therapeutic Art Facilitator. Marie supplied Kat with a number of knitted items which have been donated to Canuck Place, they provide palliative and respite care services for sick children in B.C.. Kat is also arranging for some of the items to go to the First Nation community of Attawapiskat which has been struggling with a number of youth and suicide attempts.
Every year Marie hosts a recognition event for the knitting group. She collaborates with Mulberry Executive Chef Keith Doerksen and organizes a luncheon for all of the women that have participated in the knitting group for the past year. At the luncheon she acknowledges the efforts of all the residents of Mulberry PARC that contributed to the success of Knitting-for-a-Cause. It is a special event that each of the contributors look forward to.
Marie’s community involvement also branches outside of Mulberry PARC. She is an active member of Willingdon Church in Burnaby. Marie belongs to a ladies’ group called ‘Mission Circle’. This group of women meet weekly and through knitting and quilting produce items which are distributed to people in need. Recently they made over 2,000 drawstring bags which were filled with school supplies and sent to different countries for children in need. Marie also arranges for a bus load of Mulberry PARC residents to attend the annual Willingdon Church Christmas program which is always a sold out group.
Despite having had a serious bout of cancer and more recently shattered bones in her shoulder, Marie continues to have a positive attitude on life. Neither setback has stopped her from continuing to do what she loves and that is knitting and encouraging others to stay involved. When people complain, Marie will put a positive slant by saying things like … “Think about Fort McMurray … there are worse things to complain about”. And at the end of the day her motto is … “If I see someone without a smile, I give them one of mine.”
To learn more about Marie check out our 2015 Real Life Resident campaign!
Check out some photos of Marie, her daughter Marlene, and some members of our PARC Retirement Living team at the Fairmont Whistler.