(from l) The Ashcroft HUB’s departing executive director Vicky Trill receives a painting from South Cariboo E. Fry Society executive director Trish Schachtel (painting created by Christine Williams), with interim executive director Jessica Clement. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

(from l) The Ashcroft HUB’s departing executive director Vicky Trill receives a painting from South Cariboo E. Fry Society executive director Trish Schachtel (painting created by Christine Williams), with interim executive director Jessica Clement. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

New face at helm of Ashcroft HUB with departure of Vicky Trill

Jessica Clement has taken over as interim executive director

There is now a new face at the helm of the Ashcroft HUB.

After nearly six years as the HUB’s first executive director, Vicky Trill — who was also one of the HUB’s founders — is moving to the Island to begin a new chapter of her life. Jessica Clement has been named by the HUB Society board as interim executive director, beginning immediately.

The Journal spoke with Trill on Jan. 14, her last day at the HUB, and she admitted that the reality of the situation was really hitting her.

“I know I’m doing the right thing, but this has been my baby, my labour of love. I’m really going to miss this place and all the people attached to it.”

Trill says that it was at the end of the 2015 school year when she and a group of moms stood on the front lawn of what was then the Ashcroft Elementary School site. The school was closed in June 2015, with Ashcroft Secondary being converted to a K–12 school for the 2015/16 school year.

“We were happy with the fact we had a K–12 school coming, but weren’t happy about the prospect of AES being boarded up and lost to the community. There were so many activities going on there already, like Zumba and yoga and karate, and we were afraid we would lose that. We heard they were going to take out the playground, and thought it would all give people more reasons to move to Kamloops.”

The sentiment, she recalls, was that “someone should do something” to keep the building open. The group began to discuss the possibility of taking over the building, and how it would work.

“We did some research, and asked the school district if it was a possibility. They said yes, but told us we’d need insurance, and would have to pay for everything that the school district wouldn’t have to pay for if it was a boarded-up building.”

One of those things was utilities, and Trill says it was an eye-opener for the would-be society to see that the utility cost alone was $3,000 per month. There were other practical things to consider, such as how they would clean the building. “It was pretty daunting.”

The group had to consider a business plan, which in the beginning consisted of opening up the building only when there was a user group in it. “We operated that way for a few months, and the school district gave us a few months to get our feet wet before we started paying the bills.” However, it wasn’t long before Trill says she realized the model wasn’t working.

“I said to the group that unless someone took on the HUB as a full-time job it wouldn’t work. We had to run it like a business. I already had my Coach Trill fitness business, so I told them that if we had a little profit after all the bills were paid, then I’d get paid.”

That was in early 2016, and Trill says that now, in addition to the executive director, the HUB has half-a-dozen paid staff, with another six or so people hired in the summer. However, she admits that it wasn’t easy, and that there were a lot of people who doubted whether the venture would succeed.

“When I start to reminisce I go ‘Wow. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.’ And I heard from a lot of people who said ‘When I heard about the idea [of the HUB] I thought it was very nice, good luck with that.’ It shows what passion and love and commitment from a community will do.

“We had so many volunteers come up to us and say ‘I’m retired, I used to do X, can I help.’ When we got the equipment to start Merv’s Gym, Merv McKague hauled it all in and put stuff together like it was Lego.”

Trill points to Merv’s Gym, and the seed money that started it, as the real launching point for the HUB.

“At the very beginning, Interior Savings and United Way believed in us. It was such a dreamy concept, such a lovely idea, and lots of people thought that’s all it was. Interior Savings and United Way believed in us enough to give us some seed money. It wasn’t very much, but it was enough to start the gym and figure out a business plan. That was the turning point. Someone believing in our idea was so big.”

Trill says that right from the start, the HUB tried to create an environment where creativity, innovation, and trying things out was not only allowed, but encouraged.

“It allowed us to try so many wonderful things. An environment where you’re not afraid to fail and are allowed to try is where beautiful things happen.”

There was also corroborative work with others.

“Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society was one of our first strong partnerships, and we’ve gone from there. We don’t want that to stop. And with something like the wildfires last summer, there was a group of ladies helping to support wildfire victims, and some logistical things were tricky. The HUB said ‘We can do that so you can do awesome work.’ It makes the HUB look good because we have theatre and dance and music lessons and all these things at the HUB, but we’re not the expert; we’re just the glue.”

Someone who has been part of that “glue” at the HUB is Jessica Clement, who has been there in several capacities for more than four years.

“I was a volunteer in the office until September 2019, when I started with the HUB Online Network,” says Clement. Even though she worked for HON, she helped the HUB with events and programs, and did a lot of their marketing. It was at the end of November last year that she found out Trill would be leaving.

“She asked me if being executive director was something I’d be interested in, and said she’d been hoping I could take over at some point.”

When the HUB Society offered Clement the position in December, she says she had to think it over — “For three-and-a-half-seconds” — before saying yes.

Over the past few weeks Clement has been meeting with Trill to go over everything the latter does, as well as learn about some more nuts-and-bolts things.

“We went through all the board and grant and building stuff. I had Vicky go through Merv’s Gym with me to go through all the equipment, and show me where all the electrical panels are, all the things we’re responsible for.”

Clement adds that this will likely change over the next year or so, following the school district’s decision in early 2021 to sell the HUB property and building to the HUB Society for a nominal fee. When that happens, says Clement, the society will be completely responsible for maintaining the building and grounds.

“Right now, if the heat stops working in the social centre we call SD74 maintenance and they come and fix it. Once the change happens it will all be on the HUB Society. If a water main breaks, we’ll be responsible for fixing it. We’ll be looking after the lawns.”

Clement says there are no plans to make major changes. “What we’re doing now is serving the community, and we’ll be continuing that, but things will change over time to serve the needs of the community. I have some ideas about bringing in new revenue, but there won’t be major changes.”

She adds that if people have ideas for the HUB, they are welcome to come in and make their pitch.

“The biggest thing we want to do is be a vessel for things happening in the community, and we’ll do all we can to make that happen. If you have an idea and want to make something happen, come talk to me and we’ll see if we can get it figured out.”

Clement says the HUB has already applied for summer students, and that there will be programs for kids all summer long, but what they look like will depend on what the world looks like in June. “Do we offer in-class programs like last year, or virtual programs like the year before?”

Her title of interim executive director is in effect until mid-April, at which point she says the HUB Society board will either decide to hire her or post the job.

“It gives the board a chance to give me a test run. I’m really excited, and honoured that Vicky feels I’m worthy and capable of taking over her baby and raising it for the next while.”

Trill says she has given Clement two pieces of advice.

“Start with ‘yes’, and be gracious. I’ve had lots of people come into this office with ideas, and I’ve thought ‘What the heck? I know nothing about this.’ So be gracious, listen, and explore it. Some of the best things that have happened have come out of those situations where I thought ‘How will this turn into anything?’ and it did.”

Trill has spent nearly four decades in Ashcroft, and has deep connections with the community.

“I coached basketball for more than 20 years, and organized the Kids’ Tryathlon, and there are so many things I’ve been involved with directly or indirectly. There are so many wonderful people and things to say goodbye to after 38 years.

“Something that will stick with me forever is the people I’ve worked with at the HUB. I’ve made some lifetime connections. [Executive assistant] Leisa McAvany has been my right hand person, and I have full confidence in Jessica.

“And all the teens who have come through here have been such a joy in my life. Watching them grow as people and employees has to be a professional high point for me. They bring so much life, so many ideas, and such energy.”



editorial@accjournal.ca

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