Deborah Hollins

Executive Director

Deborah is a social worker with a rich history of working with marginalized and vulnerable people and community development. She came to NFLA in 2012 with an abiding belief in resilience and healing. As such, she works to cultivate equity, to live a balanced life that is deeply connected to community, and to apply ethical values to actualize meaningful social change.

Contact Deborah:
250-754-3331 ext. 201

Mia Maarika

Programs Coordinator
Volunteer Counselling Program and Senior Peer Counselling Program. (V.C.P. & S.C.P.)

Mia’s background is in Nursing/Psychiatric Nursing. She is a Registered Professional Counsellor. She grew up in Sweden and came to Canada when she was 23 years old. She has been involved at NFLA for 10 years and has coordinated the counselling program for almost 8 years. Her passions are personal growth, spirituality, meditation, nature, books and her awesome children.

Contact Mia (she/her):
250-754-3331 ext. 427

Donna Berthiaume

Manager of Financial Services

Donna graduated from VIU with her Associate in Commerce specializing in Accounting. She has an extensive background in both “for profit” and “not for profit” bookkeeping and financial management. Donna was born in Montreal and moved west until she found her home in Nanaimo. Loving the ocean, forests and the people, Nanaimo is the place for her.

Contact Donna (she/her):
250-754-3331 ext. 204

Stefan Jaeger

Program Coordinator
Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors (TAPS)

Stefan has recently graduated Vancouver Island University with a Bachelors in Recreation & Tourism Management.  With a background in both public and non-profit recreation delivery, working with TAPS is a natural fit.  Stefan was born on the Island and loves to connect with the beautiful scenery.  He can always be found talking hockey or watching the latest Netflix has to offer.

Contact Stefan (he/him):
250-754-3331 ext. 716

Esther Charlie

Program Coordinator
Indigenous-Informed Sexual Assault Response Program (IISARP)

Esther is Indigenous from the Nlaka’pamux Nation in Lytton, BC. Though she was removed from her traditional territory as a child, she has returned to connect to her extended family, traditional land, and cultural teachings. Today, feeling blessed by the experiences that have influenced the woman she has become. “My passion is and has always been working to support and improve the quality of life for First Nations individuals, families, and communities.”

Esther has resided on Vancouver Island for over 30 years and in the Snuneymuxw Territory for over 20 years. She has been blessed to work with and support several of the Coast Salish Elders, families, and individuals. Many who have generously shared their experience, teachings, and cultural ways. “This has supported my own well-being and provides some understanding of the Indigenous people of this territory.”

Esther brings extensive experience working in First Nation organizations and Community Services providers on and off reserve. She brings over 15 years of experience developing and coordinating programs, group facilitation, trauma counselling, leadership development, and providing support and advocacy to individuals, families, and community members.

“I am honored and look forward to working with the NFLA team and with the partners of this collaborative effort, to develop and coordinate a program and training, that will respect and honor the diversity of Indigenous people who have experienced domestic and sexualized violence.”

Contact Esther:
250-327-9452/ 250-754-3331 ext. 513

Jade Thomson

Lakeside Courts Housing Support Worker

Jade has rejoined NFLA after having graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political studies from VIU in June of 2023. She started with NFLA as the SHINE Program Assistant in the summer of 2022. Now, Jade is continuing her work with the SHINE Program as the Housing Support Worker for Lakeside Courts – a new temporary affordable housing project for seniors. Jade brings a passion for affordable housing and social justice and is eager to help make a change.

Jade grew up in the Okanagan and moved to Nanaimo for university and for the lush natural setting. In her free time, Jade loves collecting rocks at the beach, going for walks in the forest, having picnics, and hanging out with her cat.

Contact Jade (she/her):

Sarah Comeau

Program Assistant
Better at Home

Originally from Ontario, the mountains and rainforests brought Sarah to the West Coast which she has now called home for close to twenty years. Having studied community development, Sarah desires to effect positive change through authentic relationships with community members and organizations. With a background in client care for people of all ages and backgrounds, she enjoys discovering what makes people who they are and finding ways to assist them in their personal journeys. In her free time, you can usually find Sarah adventuring with her dog, tending to her vegetable garden, and getting lost in creative sewing projects.

Contact Sarah (she/her):
250-754-3331 ext. 202

Carol Pelletier

Program Coordinator

Senior Housing and Navigation Ease Program (SHINE)

Carol is a registered social worker with a preference for working with older adults in non-profit settings. She has worked at several non-profits in the Mid-Island area and is happy to have found a home at NFLA. Carol believes that ethical conduct and holding hope are the keys to enable meaningful change.

She lived in Northern BC and the Cariboo region of BC before moving to Nanaimo thirty years ago. Carol loves animals, especially cats.

Contact Carol (she/her):
250-754-3331 ext. 205

Maria Cerna

Program Assistant
Senior Housing Information and Navigation Ease Program (SHINE)

Maria immigrated to Canada in 2008 from Mexico, where family and community are very important pillars in life. She believes that seniors deserve to be safe and secure, and that no one should have to struggle on their own late in life. Maria’s background as a hospice Care Aide in Vancouver, working with patients and their families, has inspired her to continue working in organizations devoted to making communities stronger. 

Maria has been in Vancouver Island for over a year. She loves connecting with nature and photographing the many beautiful places around the island.

Contact Maria (she/her):
250-754-3331 ext. 212

Angela Turnbull

Program Coordinator
Better at Home

Angela came to NFLA driven by a passion for diversity, personal growth, and equality for those who have been systemically and culturally disempowered. She has a diploma in Business Administration and is eager to use her education and various personal life experiences to give back to the community.

After an exciting move from the Alberta Prairies in 2020, Vancouver Island truly feels like home. She enjoys gazing into the ocean, spending time with her partner and dogs, and working in her crochet business.

Contact Angela (she/her):
250-754-3331  ext. 203

Josh Drummond

Facilitator – Beyond Blame

Josh has a background in social work working for both Indigenous agencies and non-profit organizations. He has a Masters of Social Work from UVIC and a Bachelors of Social Work from VIU. He has lived his entire life in the Nanaimo/Ladysmith area.

When not at work he loves the hiking, snowboarding, hockey, golf, and spending time with his dog.

Contact Josh:
250-754-3331 ext. 767

Heather Foster

Housekeeping Service Provider
Better at Home

What better position could there be for someone who enjoys meeting and assisting people along with cleaning/organizing.  Makes my heart sing to see the shear appreciation on our clients faces after a visit.  Although I have had a diverse career, far removed from housekeeping, this retirement career is the best yet! NFLABC brings a wealth of support to our Nanaimo Community and I am honored to be part of the Better at Home Program and look forward to working with the NFLA team.  So very much to learn and do.  Most of my spare time is spent with my three precious granddaughters, along with skating, paddle boarding, hiking and reading a good mystery novel.

Contact Heather:

Denisa Reyes

Housekeeping Service Provider
Better at Home

Denisa is a nature lover with an eclectic career background, having worked in public service, therapeutic riding stables, and as a professional photographer. Her greatest passion are Medicine Horses, energy work, and supporting others on their self-healing journey. Denisa believes one’s home is an extension of one’s body and life. Better At Home gives her the opportunity to work with that concept and improve the lives of our clients. By cleaning and organizing a client’s space, she intends to help clear their path to wellbeing and harmony.

Contact Heather:

Amber Knapman

Volunteer Resource Coordinator

Amber was born in Saskatchewan and made Vancouver Island her home in 2008. She has both studied and been employed in the field of Animal Behavior and Welfare for over 15 years before deciding to join NFLA. Amber’s passion to help people and provide support to her community while working in not profit organizations has led her to join the Nanaimo Family Life Association. Outside the office, you can find her hiking, skiing or camping with her dogs.

Contact Amber (she/her):
250-754-3331 ext. 206

Felicity Hocking-Steel 

Program Facilitator for Gender Journeys and Transcend Nanaimo

Felicity is a non-binary trans student at VIU currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in Child and Youth Care with a minor in Visual Art. They have lived on the island since 2016 and started with the NFLA in 2023 as the Program Facilitator for the Gender Journeys and Transcend Nanaimo peer support groups.

Felicity is passionate about the queer community, trauma-informed practice, and preventative care in the community.

Outside of work you can find them with their cats, watching local drag shows, playing video games, and thrifting knick-knacks for their frog themed bathroom.

Contact Felicity (they/them):
250-754-3331 ext. 710

Angela N.

Angela Nguyen

Administrative Coordinator

Angela N. joins NFLA with experience gained from 10 years working at a public library. There she learned to be a part of a community and the importance of having available resources. With a Bachelors in Liberal Studies, customer service experience, and a ton of training, Angela will be a helpful and friendly face to NFLA.

Contact Angela N. (she/her) :