Board of Directors

The SPARC BC Board of Directors brings a strong background in the area of social policy and social justice and reflects the social and geographic diversity of BC. The time, expertise, and experience that they volunteer to SPARC BC is invaluable to our organization and is fundamental to the work that we do.

Hugh Kellas – President, West Vancouver, B.C.

Hugh joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2012 and has served as President since 2018. Previously, Hugh served as Treasurer/Secretary for six (6) years. Trained as an urban planner, Hugh held a series of positions within Metro Vancouver, including the Manager of Policy and Planning, and currently provides consulting services. Active in his profession, Hugh is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) and a past president of both CIP and the Planning Institute of British Columbia. Hugh has also served on the Board of Directors of the United Way of the Lower Mainland. Hugh brings extensive knowledge of urban and community development.

Christene Walsh – Vice-President, Kelowna, B.C.

Christene joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2014 and has served as a Vice-President since 2018. Christene also serves as the Chair of the Board’s Nominations Committee. Previously, Christene served on the Board’s Governance Committee and the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee. Christene is a registered social worker (MSW) and currently employed with the Regional District of Central Okanagan [RDCO] as Manager, Police/Community Support Services. Previously Christene held a number of community development roles within the Central Okanagan’s social services sector. Prior to joining SPARC BC’s Board of Directors, Christene worked with SPARC BC’s research team in looking at the issues of hidden homelessness and family homelessness in smaller communities and urban centres outside of the Lower Mainland. Christene has a strong commitment to social justice and has worked in a broad range of roles in mental health & substance use services, palliative [cancer] care, hospital social work and child protection (Indigenous communities).

Tarita Davenock – Vice-President, Nanaimo, B.C.

Tarita joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2018 and has served as a Vice-President since 2019. Tarita also serves on the Board’s Nominations Committee. Previously, Tarita served on the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee and the Board’s Governance Committee. Tarita has built a reputation as a global expert in the field of accessible travel, and inclusive tourism. A speaker and contributor to the Huffington Post, and other travel publications; her company Travel For All is Canada’s premier accessible travel agency. Tarita is sought after for her extensive business knowledge as an entrepreneur with a disability and is passionate about creating access for all.  Tarita has served in a diverse range of roles over the years in promoting greater accessibility including participating on the Accessible Tourism Committee for the Standards Council of Canada. Tarita has graduate degrees in English and Behavioural Psychology and is currently working on the completion of her Doctoral Thesis. Prior to establishing Travel For All, Tarita worked as a social worker.

Marla Reed – Dawson Creek, B.C.

Marla joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2018 and has served as the Secretary/Treasurer since 2020. Marla also serves as the Chair of the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee. Marla is the Executive Director of the Dawson Creek Society for Community Living. Marla brings extensive knowledge of the community living movement and has worked in the social service sector for twenty-five (25) years. Over the course of her career, Marla has worked with a broad range of partners on a wide range of community development initiatives designed to promote and support greater economic and social inclusion for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Marla’s work has included the development of numerous housing options for low-income adults with developmental disabilities, families, and seniors. Marla is passionate about the inclusion of adults with developmental disabilities and seniors in the Province and is committed to creating a more inclusive society for everyone.

Beverly Onischak – Castlegar, B.C.

Beverly joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2016 and serves on the Board’s Governance Committee. Beverly is a retired Nurse with more than 40 years of practice in acute care and complex care. Bev is also an educator with experience in providing instruction for nursing students. Bev has a long history of advocacy on issues of accessibility and disability. Bev currently serves on a number of Committees including the National Committee for Persons Living with DisAbilities. Through her work, and various labour and union affiliations, Bev has championed womens’ rights, and has worked to address issues around occupational health and safety including the working conditions for short-term and part-time instructors. Bev is active on the Castlegar and District Social Planning Council and is a member of the Castlegar Mayor’s Abilities Awareness Advisory Committee. Bev is also an active community volunteer who enjoys the Garden Club and Friends of the Library.

Susan Jensen – Prince George, B.C.

Susan joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2015 and serves as a member of the Finance & Audit Committee. Previously, Susan served on the Governance Committee. Susan was born in Dawson Creek and currently resides in Prince George. Susan attended Northern Lights College where she took courses in business administration and business finance. Susan has a passion for social justice and has had a long career working with seniors, adults and youth from a variety of backgrounds (abuse, criminal justice, family matters and access to benefits). Susan found her work at Legal Services as an Intake Legal Assistant to be gratifying and believes in the importance of doing good deeds for others. Susan brings extensive front-line experience and understanding to SPARC BC’s Board of Directors.

Dr. Angela Towle – Vancouver, BC

Angela joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2017 and serves as the Chair on the Board’s Governance Committee. As a member of SPARC BC’s Board, Angela brings extensive knowledge of the social determinants of health, the health sector, and training of health professionals. Given the role health plays, either directly or indirectly, in so many of the issues that affect society today (housing, poverty, employment and social isolation) Angela believes she can make an important contribution to SPARC BC’s Board. Angela brings a commitment to the inclusion of grassroots community voices, and a belief that different forms of knowledge (academic and experiential) are necessary to gain a more complete understanding of societal problems and potential solutions. Angela also has an extensive track record of scholarly investigation and publications, and a desire to promote and disseminate high quality research through both traditional and more unconventional means in order to reach and benefit a wider sector of society.

Wes Hewitt – Port Alberni, B.C.

Wes joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2019 and serves on Board’s Finance and Audit Committee. Previously, Wes also served on the Board’s Nominations Committee. Wes is the dedicated Executive Director for the Alberni Shelter Society where he is proud to be considered a community leader in the development of social housing and change in many areas. This year, Wes led his team to the completion of a new Supportive Housing/Shelter facility and has also established a Sobering and Assessment Centre, Harms reduction Site, Over-Dose Prevention Site, housing for low-income families and employment training within Port Alberni. Wes has enjoyed being an innovator in the fields of developing some of the best practices in Harms Reduction, Substance Use and Mental Health. Recently, Wes was appointed to the BC Poverty Reduction Forum which developed the first ever Poverty Reduction Plan and helped write the legislation that was introduced and passed. Some of the strongest connections that Wes has made with clients has been through tasks not associated with his work; tasks like assisting to fix a door, or helping out with carpentry, have led to a rewarding opportunity to learn and grow. Outside of Wes’s occupation, he has deep community involvement as a Shriner and Freemason.

Dr. Margaret Coombes – Abbotsford, B.C.

Margaret joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2019 and serves on the Board’s Nominations Committee. Previously Margaret served on the Board’s Governance Committee. Margaret is Director of the School of Social Work and Human Services for the University of the Fraser Valley. Margaret works to connect research to direct services while building capacity in local communities. Throughout Margaret’s career, she has advocated for social justice of equity-seeking groups, and marginalized individuals and families. Margaret’s substantive areas of interest have been and continue to be, how to best serve, engage, or intervene with children and their families who are often living in poverty, experience trauma, and come to the attention of the child welfare and justice systems. Since relocating to the Fraser Valley, Margaret is active on several community committees such as Archway, formerly Abbotsford Community Services, Safe Relations Safe Children Committee, Community Quality Initiatives with the Ministry of Child and Family Services and Mental Health, and the HUB, Positive Living. Margaret is also committed to ensuring that stakeholders are engaged in the decision-making process to bring about sustainable change and continues to participate in local and provincial initiatives to build safer and healthy communities that are inclusive and seek to engage all members.

Linden Collette – Cowichan Bay, B.C.

Linden joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2020 and serves on the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee. Linden has been aware of the work of SPARC BC for several years, first in her role as the Executive Director at Social Planning Cowichan and now in her current role as the dedicated Executive Director of Community Options for Children and Families. Most recently, Linden participated in the community consultations on disability legislation of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and assisted SPARC BC staff in the facilitation of several meetings. With a passion for social justice and experience in research, policy development and practice, Linden brings valuable experience as a  SPARC BC Director.

Theresa Harding – Richmond, B.C.

Theresa joined SPARC BC’s Board of Directors in 2020 and serves on the Board’s Nominations Committee and Governance Committee. Theresa is a genuine supporter of working with communities to build a just and healthy society for all. Early in her career, with academic focuses on sociology, gender studies, and planning, her focus was to support inform all active engagements with social justice and equity. It is with these values that Theresa was prepared to practice collaborative community development by founding programs that would be integral to the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre. Much of Theresa’s values have been informed by hard circumstances and decisions experienced by many SPARC BC clients and research demographics, which puts her at a level of empathy and understanding to inform who she is and what does.