Karen Mason, Executive Director of the Kelowna Women's Shelter

story by Dona Sutmanis

 

“Meaningful work that makes my heart sing!”

 

 

“There's nothing better than working at my computer on budget reports to funders only to be interrupted by an adorable toddler who wanders into my office for a chat about her sparkly, new shoes, or a mom who stops by to tell me that the Shelter, and its amazing staff, saved her life!” says Karen Mason about her job as executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter. “Family violence is an ongoing issue, and the fact that I get the opportunity to play even a small part in the work that’s going on to stop it is incredible.”

 

 

Since April of this year, Karen has been in her position at the Shelter, which provides emergency transitional housing, counseling, support and preventive education to women and their children who've experienced domestic violence. “My job involves overseeing every aspect of operation, from food and shelter, counseling and education programs to a second-stage housing facility and thriving thrift store business.”

 

 

Karen ended up in this challenging job after over 20 years in broadcast journalism and PR/marketing because of a “mid-life career crisis,” as she terms it. “I didn't need a shiny sports car, but I knew I needed a new job,” she says. “Being passionate and committed to the work I do has always been a key driver and that seemed to be missing more and more.”

 

 

“Moments after I finally voiced to someone my fantasy of becoming an executive director at a non-profit I was passionate about, I learned the Shelter was conducting a complete organizational restructuring and would soon be posting an executive director position.” At that point, Karen had been volunteering at the Kelowna Women's Shelter for about a year. “On some level, I knew at that moment I was meant to have this job, and I set out to make it happen!”

 

 

Karen spent the first decade of her career working as a news reporter, anchor and producer for CBC TV and radio in Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver and Kelowna. The next dozen years were spent in public relations and marketing with a variety of organizations including Disney Club Penguin. 

 

 

“During all of this, I was an active community contributor,” says Karen. “I volunteered with the United Way, as a Big Sister, as a baby cuddler at my local hospital, and dog walker with the SPCA before I began working with the Kelowna Women's Shelter on their social media campaigns.”

 

 

Karen’s new job utilizes all the professional and people skills she was fortunate to develop during her past career and lets her apply them in new, creative ways. “It’s certainly useful to be comfortable with public speaking when I’m called on to represent the Shelter in the community and in meetings with funders.”

 

 

Karen now says she can’t imagine any other profession after this.  “I have never been so challenged at work, nor so satisfied with the result at the end of the day. To be at mid-life and doing truly meaningful work that makes my heart sing is a delightful situation I never could have imagined.”

 

 

© 2020 by OKANAGAN WOMAN MAGAZINE 

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