After over two decades, Heather Boonstra is stepping away from the Fort Saskatchewan Families First Society.
Boonstra has been a part of the organization since it first began.
In the mid-1990s the government put out a request for more early intervention services in the province. Boonstra volunteered to sit on a committee to determine if Fort Saskatchewan should apply to get funding for the service in the community.
"Putting my hand up was the beginning of a 20-plus year journey that has really been the time of my life," she said. "I can't imagine my life without Families First in it."
Over the years, Boonstra moved on to be the chairperson of the board of directors, an employee at the Families First Society, then eventually the executive director in 2012.
She has many fond memories of her time with the organization. One that stands out to her is moving from a small building downtown into the former RCMP station on 99 Avenue.
"That's such a fond and strong memory because it was such a perfect example of a true community effort," she explained, noting how hard the staff worked, the support they received from council, and the many industry partners and community members who contributed either through financial assistance or by volunteering.
"I will be eternally grateful to them and moving into our new home was one of the happiest points in my career."
In September, Boonstra made the decision to retire from the Families First Society. There were many factors influencing her decision, including the desire to step away while she is still healthy and happy, the organization being in a strong enough place to handle a change in leadership, and wanting to be the first of her staff to retire, so the next executive director will be able to work with the people who had helped her for so many years.
She will officially retire at the end of the month.
"As emotional as it is to have left, it's also really exciting because I don't know what's next. I'm not the kind of person that needs to know that."
On Monday (June 15), Jacqueline Dagneau started taking over the role of executive director.
With years of experience in collaborative work and the youth and family servicing sector, as well as being new to the organization, she'll be bringing a new perspective to the Families First Society.