New leadership for EKFH

Brenna Baker became the executive director of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health on June 4, 2017

Brenna Baker, executive director of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health, stands before the Foundation logo and the donor recognition board at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

Brenna Baker, executive director of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health, has a long history of contribution and community support. — Marie Milner photo

If we shortlisted the people who epitomize the culture of service in the Kootenay region, Brenna Baker of Cranbrook would certainly be included. Like her father, who has been an active volunteer for as long as she can remember, Baker has a long history of contribution and community support.

She moved to Cranbrook from Cluny, Alberta, 25 years ago, and in that time Baker has served on volunteer boards for St. Mary’s School, Key City Gymnastics, the Cranbrook Curling Club, the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. She has also held paid positions for non-profit groups including Fort Steele Heritage Town and the local branch of the B.C. SPCA, where she was the manager for four years.

Under Baker, the B.C. SPCA East Kootenay Branch achieved a vastly improved “live release” rate for animals in its care and it was named B.C.’s Branch of the Year in 2015.

Change and balance

Baker recently made a shift from sheltering animals to supporting care for East Kootenay citizens. On June 4, 2017, she took on the role of executive director of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health—a position carrying some weighty responsibilities.

Pared down to its bones, Baker’s job is about raising funds in order to buy equipment to support the region’s ill, injured and elderly. That equipment could be as small as a stethoscope and as large as an MRI machine. Her genuine interest in people is a great asset to her in that work, but unless she’s careful, that interest could allow the work to consume her.

“When I was coming into this job I promised myself I’d make sure to have a work-life balance, more than I was able to at the SPCA,” Baker said. “I love finding out about people and learning about their stories, but I need to be objective while still caring about the work. Life is delicate and it’s short. It’s important that I find a balance, to have a good life as well as work that I love.”

It’s early days, and Baker is still getting to know the needs of the communities in the region, which extends from the Creston Valley north to Golden, down the Columbia Valley to Cranbrook, and east through the Elk Valley. Her visits to the communities served by Interior Health have opened her eyes to the scope of what is needed.

“It would be nice if the government could cover all of our health-care needs,” Baker said, “but then our taxes would be through the roof. There’s a $4.5-million ask for 2018, and Interior Health will fund $1 million of that. Heading into the new year, I’ll be accessing grants and corporate donors to help meet the shortfall. We love our individual donors, but I want to find additional sources.”

Support and resources

The support team that Baker relies on includes Beth Bennett, who takes care of the foundation’s accounting workload; Erin Pighin, a new staff member who helps with administrative work; and Victoria Robinson, a volunteer who continues the tradition of her late husband, Peter, in supporting Baker and her work.

“All of the local hospital auxiliaries support us financially, and we help them as much as we can to meet their equipment needs,” said Baker. “We have a common goal to improve our hospitals and seniors’ homes and community nursing, and if we work together we’ll accomplish more, more quickly.

“There’s so much good work that we can do as a foundation, and we will get there—it just won’t be overnight. I’m hoping our team will make leaps and bounds in making a difference in health-care. I’m looking forward to the future and being part of that change.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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