(Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

(Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: Kaps off to Colleen Hermanson

Colleen Hermanson began working in social services as early as 1968

It’s a quiet sunny Sunday afternoon on McKay Street. Not a soul can be seen around the townhouses at the end of the street. Residents must either be tucked away inside, having a lazy afternoon or out and about enjoying the weather.

A red vehicle suddenly pulls into the parking lot and out comes a woman holding a box full of supplies, scurrying into 369 McKay.

The woman is Colleen Hermanson and the housing unit is rented by the Kaien Anti-Poverty Society (KAPS). Hermanson has been the executive director of the society for the past twelve years. And on a day that is normally reserved as a break for most individuals, Hermanson was out and about working.

Hermanson was meeting a colleague to go over the earnings from Friday’s bingo night. Bingo night is part of the latest fundraising project KAPS is working on.

The society is trying to raise enough money to purchase a vehicle for their food share program which is currently in expansion. Partnerships with local grocers will now allow KAPS to receive unsold food and donate them to families and individuals in need of a meal.

Colleen Hermanson is working on a Sunday afternoon, counting the money raised from the Kaien Anti-Poverty Society’s bingo fundraiser, to raise money for a new vehicle that can transport food to those in need. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

READ MORE: KAPS hopes to get hands on handhelds under Save-On program

READ AND WATCH MORE: Kaien Anti-Poverty Society hoping to raise $20K in 50/50 community bingo nights

Before Hermanson started at KAPS twelve years ago it was an informal group who wanted to get the ball rolling. Eventually, they came together to actually formalize the society.

Hermanson was not part of that original group but has carried on their work since with a team of dedicated workers and volunteers.

Over the years, under the guidance of Hermanson, four other paid employees, and a handful of volunteers whom she refers to as “angels,” KAPS grew. Currently, they host an after school program, taking in eight to 10 kids per day, while also opening up a free store where they receive donations and distribute them back to the community.

Although KAPS is a part-time job for Hermanson, work is non-stop. A typical day begins with the at 10 a.m. phone calls, followed by a drive around town to pick up and sort donations until it ends when the after school program settles down for the day.

What brought Hermanson to KAPS was all her previous engagement in social services and children.

“I had originally wanted to deal with just children. I’ve always had children in my home. I’ve always been involved with children and their families. But it seemed as though there were other things that needed to be done as well. So things just grew and expanded and here I am in the society,” she said.

Hermanson, who is now 71, has been a foster parent since 1968, taking in children takes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes for the short term and sometimes for the long term, until a family is ready to provide for their child.

“Too many children have come through my door to count. But I’ve probably had thousands. In the past I had upwards of eight people at once,” she said.

“You take care of them the same as you would for any child of your own. You know, there’s feeding them, clothing them, wiping their noses, making sure the doctor, the dentist and whoever needs to be involved in their life is there, making sure that family has a connection with them one way or the other, making sure school is taken care of and all of their social and recreational activities. And hug them when you need to.”

Hermanson also ran 12 group homes, four of which were in Prince Rupert, while working as program manager down at the former Community Enrichment Society.

Colleen Hermanson has worked at the Kaien Anti-Poverty Society for 12 years. Now they host an after-school program for kids, run a food-share program, and open a free store where they collect donations and distribute them back into the community. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

READ MORE: Heart of Our City: Behind the lens of Rupert’s volunteer extraordinaire

Eventually, the province stopped funding the group homes in favour of having children placed in smaller situations with fewer kids involved because large institutional-like settings were not home-like, according to Hermanson who often butts heads with the ministry’s decision.

“There are some situations where a 24-hour a day adult with no support or any type of relief can keep that up long term. And if you have a group home setting — when you’ve got the additional support in the home to help care for those numbers — it works a lot better and a lot easier,” she said.

Currently, Hermanson is also a home care provider for two persons with mental disabilities who she cares for 24/7 in her own home. She said she houses one lady who will be turning 69 years old in a couple of days and another male who has been with her since infancy, who is now almost 42 years old.

“You just get up in the morning you do it,” Hermanson said when asked how she manages. “I’d have to say having families come back and be united is one of the best parts.”

Hermanson, who is a mother of three, said her words of wisdom to anyone thinking about getting involved with social services is to “make sure you take care of yourself and your family if you’re going to bring people into your home.”

Some of her favourite self-care regiment is to take a bath, relax, read a book and go to bed before she starts a day of caring for others all over again.

READ MORE: Heart of Our City: Cay Hülsen is integrating health care into the community


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Heart of our City

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Face masks are required to be worn in all SD 52 common areas such as hallways. School District 52 announced on Jan. 15 three different schools in Prince Rupert all had a member of the school community test positive for COVID-19. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
3 Prince Rupert schools have positive COVID-19 case(s)

Letters sent home to families in three Prince Rupert schools announcing COVID-19

Power outages affected thousands of BC Hydro customers in the north on Jan. 14 (File photo) (File photo)
Power outages affect thousands of BC Hydro customers in northern B.C.

Transmission failure led to outages in Prince Rupert and Port Edward

A Prince Rupert port expansion project received a $25 million investment from the provincial government, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 14. Seen here is Ridley Terminals Inc., a coal export terminal in Prince Rupert (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)
$25 million government investment in Prince Rupert port expansion project

Prince Rupert port expansion project expected to create more than 2,200 jobs

For the second time in less than a year, Air Canada announced on Jan. 13 it has suspended flights on the Prince Rupert-Vancouver route as of Jan 17. (Photo by: Jerold Leblanc)
Cessation of flights to YPR will affect the municipal economy and global trade, P.R. Mayor said

Chamber of Commerce said it will aggressively pursue the resumption of flights to Prince Rupert

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read