Honouring Her Roots

Perley Health continues to increase its contribution to the community thanks in part to Katrin Spencer's remarkable ability to apply simple, small-town values to complex challenges. The plan to build an onsite childcare centre in partnership with Andrew Fleck Children's Services is just the latest example.

“Creating a childcare centre is another way that Perley Health's staff and facilities can serve the community,” says Katrin Spencer, Director of Strategy, Partnership and Growth. “It will be good not only for Perley Health residents, tenants, volunteers and staff, but also for young families who live nearby.”

A commitment to community service and to helping the disadvantaged was widely shared among residents of Goemnigk, the small German town where Spencer was born and raised.
“Goemnigk is a town of only about 300 people,” says Spencer. “Residents worked together so that no one was left behind.”

As part of the overseas work, Katrin helped develop the town of Uroa, Zanzibar Island. Living in the East African village meant drawing water for cooking, cleaning, and construction. She was also involved in establishing a medical station in the town.

To complement this altruistic spirit, Spencer acquired a strong work ethic and a drive to excel from her parents—a doctor and an engineer. As a young woman, she served a series of volunteer stints in other countries and developed a passion for helping disadvantaged people. In Zanzibar, for instance, she helped to establish and resupply remote medical stations, and to build an elementary school. In Ireland, she cared for people living with developmental and physical disabilities at a Camphill community.

“At Camphill communities, everyone—regardless of ability or disability—does whatever work they can do,” she recalls. “I did everything from cooking for 12 people to carding and spinning wool from the sheep we raised.”

Spencer began her career in healthcare before immigrating to Canada, where she furthered her studies, earning Bachelor of Science and Master in Health Administration degrees. Prior to joining Perley Health, Spencer managed the $29 million project to expand Grove Nursing Home in Arnprior, Ontario.

In 2019, Spencer came to Perley Health to manage a proposed expansion project, which is currently on hold. During the pandemic, she assumed additional responsibilities, leading the Senior Living independent apartments, Assisted Living Services, the Adult Day Program, Respite House at Perley Health and more. With the support of a small and dedicated team, she fostered the partnership with Andrew Fleck Child Services that led to the ongoing intergenerational playgroup and a proposed childcare centre at Perley Health. Another recent partnership, with Christie Lake Kids, involves an on-site intergenerational music-and-food program for older adults and teenagers. Spencer's proven ability to establish innovative, successful partnerships convinced the leadership team to assign her a larger role and additional responsibilities.

“For the more than 600 people who live here, Perley Health is first and foremost their home,” she says. “We're a community rather than an institution. By leveraging our assets and expertise, and partnering with like-minded organizations, we can improve the lives of vulnerable people. This mission inspires me every day.”

As part of ongoing meetings to establish the intergenerational playgroup at Perley Health, Katrin is happy to engage with all ages.

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