Volunteers- muffin mornings

Kay Swalwell, founder of the New View Society, with staff and visitors to Muffin Morning at the Port Coquitlam clubhouse. A fund has been set up in Swalwell’s name to raise money for Christmas events and other social experiences that are vital for mental health recovery.  Photograph By Diane Strandberg

By The Tri-Cities Now
Posted Nov. 24th, 2015

The blueberry muffins piled high on a baking tray smell heavenly and a flame is flickering in the gas fireplace.

The New View Society’s clubhouse is a cozy and warm place to be on a cold fall day and, judging by the smiling faces grouped in a circle, others attending Muffin Morning think so, too.

Kay Swalwell, her grey curls giving her a grandmotherly aura, leans in to take part in the conversation, just as she did over 40 years ago when the first muffin and coffee mornings were introduced. In those days, Swalwell, a Coquitlam resident, was hosting coffee time for women with mental health concerns, many of them Riverview Hospital patients.

Fast forward to today and the digs are much nicer — a fine looking building attached to 10 units of housing on Mary Hill Road in Port Coquitlam — and men as well as women take part.

But the need to socialize and share stories and some laughter is as strong as it ever was.

“If you’re a person without barriers, you have a social life, you also have a work life. That’s what we do,” says Swalwell, who founded New View as a volunteer and was its executive director for many years.

Today, she is still involved in the organization, hosting Muffin Mornings and acting as a director on the board. New View continues to have a high profile in the Tri-Cities as an inclusive place that welcomes everyone.

Now, New View has more than 200 members and provides housing for almost as many through housing subsidies, group home living and a 20-unit apartment it built in Port Coquitlam. Educational and work opportunities are also provided through New View’s social enterprise component.

But she says, “The piece that is missing is the fun stuff.”

Like anyone, people with mental health issues enjoy attending social and arts events, camping trips and professional growth and educational opportunities, but living on small a disability pension of about $900 a month, they don’t have anything left over to pay for these opportunities, although they contribute what they can.

To bridge the gap, New View has started Kay’s FUNd, with a link on its website for people to contribute. Money raised will be used to provide activities such as the annual Christmas brunch, attended by between 40 and 50 people, and other events throughout the year.

It’s not a lot but it’s something, because when it’s cold outside, it’s nice to know you have a place to go. For many, New View is that place.