Gail Olson

September 08, 2017

Learning the importance of giving

Gail Olson will never forget the time she stood on the balcony of the Rising Sun Villas with a recovering addict who had just become a brand-new shared equity owner. “He pointed at Holland Park off in the distance,” she remembers. “Tears were streaming down his face as he said that three years ago he said he might have been sleeping under a tree over there.”

In fact, Gail chokes up herself as she remembers the story and then moves on to recount how fabulous her working life has been since she started working for Phoenix in 2013.

Initially brought on as transitional housing senior case manager Gail had more and more tasks added to her list, taking advantage of her skills from her previous career in business.  She was promoted to the Manager of Operations and Special Events in 2017.

In this role, she helps oversee the “Red Shirts” — the Phoenix volunteer program that assists with such events as Surrey’s Movies Under the Stars and Phoenix’s own annual summertime Eat, Live, Play Well festival.

A big believer in the merits of volunteering, Gail says that people in addiction can be somewhat self-absorbed. She can say that because she’s in recovery herself and has been sober for 37 years. “As people progress through recovery, it’s valuable for them to become part of the community and learn the importance of giving,” she says, adding that volunteer work helps them learn social skills, become part of a team and participate in the community. “For them to go out and do something like put up a vendor stand with the RCMP can be a life-changing experience,” she adds.

Gail also works with property managers, and various maintenance professionals to ensure the buildings are in top form. Because she’s responsible for four buildings of various ages (12 years, five years and two are brand new) she has plenty of organizational challenges to juggle.

Despite her busy-ness, Gail loves her work and gets great satisfaction out of getting to know the residents. “It’s very rewarding to watch them grow from treatment to independent living to home ownership,” she says. She provides opportunities for residents to be involved in the building and ground maintenance as part of Phoenix’s philosophy about community contribution.  The residents take great pride in their work and the gardening contributes to an attractive living environment.

As for herself, she loves her work so much that she can hardly wait for each Monday to arrive. “I’m very fortunate,” she says.