Rather than accepting a gift, Doug Hillian used his retirement party to raise money for Project Watershed’s Kus-Kus-Sum project. Guests contributed a combined $1,000 to support the project that proposes to restore and conserve the former Field Sawmill site.
Hillian, a member of Courtenay council, retired in December after 47 years in the human services field. He spent 38 years working in the justice system based in Courtenay, during which time he has seen significant changes. For instance, the John Howard Society had a single employee working in the North Island in 1979 when Hillian moved from Kelowna to the Comox Valley to work as a youth probation officer.
“Residential break and enters used to be a huge thing,” said Hillian, noting home security systems have helped to curtail the crimes. He also credits the justice system for not incarcerating the same number of youths as it once did.
“We’ve seen some progress.”
At the same time, he notes that “homelessness was not as much of an issue back then,” perhaps due in part to changed laws, de-institutionalization, and a growing population. But over time, social services have built up in the community. Youth workers, for instance, have been added to schools.
“A lot of hard work has got us the services we have,” said Hillian, who was the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s director of practice for North Central Vancouver Island. He was also the youth justice director for the entire Island. “We formed a social planning council.”
As an advocate for social programs, the council secured a grant for a youth project that eventually led to the formation of the LINC Youth Centre. Another service of note is the Comox Valley Transition Society — which Hillian helped to initiate as an original board member.
He plans to continue volunteering at the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre, where he has served as a facilitator and a board member.