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“I am proud of my role in providing services to the homeless population of Fort McMurray.”

The Mark Amy Treatment Centre is a highly regarded facility in Anzac, recognized for its care and sensitivity in helping people with substance abuse issues. One of the reasons for that is the vision and guidance of the executive director Jo-Anne Packham. Jo-Anne has been in YMM for 10 years, and her work has been valued from day one. Joanne has just started a new position with the United Way of Fort McMurray.

Originally from Manitoba, Jo-Anne graduated from the Child and Youth Care program at Red River College. The description of the course is an easy indicator of where her passions, or rather compassions lie. ‘This program provides you with the skills and knowledge to work with children and youth experiencing behavioural and emotional difficulties.’ Since then her work has expanded to what might be seen as caring for the whole community, especially those on the margins.

Joanne came to Fort McMurray as a program coordinator and like so many of us, saw the opportunity to extend herself. “I redefined myself in Fort McMurray,” she says, “learning through my work in indigenous service delivery to do what works, not do what’s always been done.” Recognizing that change is always needed when providing services to those who may have been forgotten, Jo-Anne has embraced the community in places where her skills are most needed. In addition to her work for the Wood Buffalo Wellness Society, she’s worked on the boards of the Pastew Place Detox Centre and the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society. “I get to step in and help people change their lives,” she said, “helping them to break cycles of trauma and addiction.”

Fort McMurray is home to Jo-Anne now. “What I love most is the ability to walk five minutes away and be surrounded by the stillness of nature. The trails system is wonderful, but I wouldn’t mind if the winter weather disappeared.”