Jane Aitken: Planting flowers along the way

Jane Aitken loves her community and has spent years giving back.

During the 1960s, Vancouver was an emerging city. Young people searching to find an alternative way of life began calling it their home. It was a lively, colourful time and many people hopped on the counter-cultural bandwagon. The city was growing with a variety of attitudes and perspectives and at times, this led to contention. For Jane Aitken, who had been born and was being raised in the heart of the city, it was just a place where fun happened. “I grew up at a time when kids weren’t on short leashes. You could go where you wanted to be. It was a great time. It was an amazing time,” she reflected.

Back in those days, her family owned the Main Hotel in Vancouver but eventually they moved on and her father began working as a comptroller for Eagle Motors. “Mom always worked but she never did just one thing. She would just land at a job, filling in here or there. Then someone would ask her to do this or that. I guess this is where I get it from,” she giggled.

When Jane was just six years old, her father had a major heart attack and was unable to do the required maintenance around the house. “I quickly developed a sense of responsibility at a young age. I started mowing the lawn and doing a lot of the yard work,” she said.

Jane enjoyed being able to express her creative side while she was in school.  She loved art but decided not to pursue it as a career. “I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do after graduating. As it turned out, I was asked to work as a receptionist for a doctor’s office and ended up staying for about six years. When the doctor retired, I moved on and took a position with BC Hydro’s Elco Credit Union. I eventually worked my way up to a loans officer,” she said. During this time, Jane was married and gave birth to their first son, Aaron.

Soon after, the young couple got the opportunity to move to Greendale. “The price was right and so we left everything and moved out here on faith. I’ll never forget it. We moved out in February and there was tons of snow on the ground. Mt. Cheam looked like the Alps to me. I turned to my husband and asked what we were doing but it’s all been for the good,” she smiled.

Their second son, Mathew, was born in Chilliwack and since Jane was taking a break from the corporate world, to stay home with her young sons, she got into childcare as a means to supplement the family income. When the children were older, she returned to the workforce and went into retail. “I did that for awhile and then in the early 80s started at Safeway which eventually led to work in the promotions department at the radio station.”

Ever the entrepreneur, something that she admits comes from her family’s background in the hotel business; Jane started her own company after her stint at the radio station. “I started Way to Go Promotions and did a variety of things including putting together two Country Harvest Festivals for the BIA and the Christmas Village downtown,” she said.

After coordinating a series of larger-scale events, Jane made the decision to get back into the food business and took on a position as a rep for the major meat distributors. “I was coordinating the sampling for Grimm’s Meats, Harvest, Maple Leaf and Schneider’s and others. I went to trade shows and basically marketed their product,” she explained.

From there, she became the manager of the Starbucks at the Chilliwack Mall Safeway and admits that this was a period of extensive growth both professionally and personally. “There was a lot of learning going on that’s for sure,” she laughed. She was awarded a Siren’s award for customer service but after years of essentially being married to the job, it was time to move on.

Jane landed at Canadian Tire and for the past five years has been their promotions coordinator. Aside from her regular day to day responsibilities, the part of her job that she enjoys the most is heading up their Jumpstart Day. This special day is the signature program of the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. “This is a national charity that helps to identify and support community-based programs that give a boost to financially challenged families across Canada. On May 25th from 2 – 4 p.m. we’ll be in the parking lot at Canadian Tire raising funds but most importantly creating an awareness of the program. It’s going to be a fun day and everyone is welcome to attend. The focus of the day will be on youth so there’ll be many things for the young people to enjoy. Our community is so giving and I really appreciate all of the local response,” she enthused.

As she sits back and takes a moment to collect her thoughts and reflect, Jane concedes that her life has been nothing if not interesting.

Jane loves her community and has spent years giving back. “I was a volunteer at SHAW for 10 years and enjoyed every minute of it. While I was there, I came to understand just how much I enjoy history. I had the chance to interview many old timers and the stories and traditions that were relayed to me were fascinating. I also dedicated a lot of time to the SPCA. I’m a people person and animals have always been a big part of my life too. Over the years, we’ve fostered many animals and they always seem to show up on our doorstep. We’ve even had a cow on our front door,” she chuckled.

Giving back and enjoying life are recurring themes with Jane. “I do love the outdoors and I try to enjoy my surroundings as much as I can. I even like putting on a fire, whenever it’s possible. You do have to smell the flowers and it’s nice to plant a few along the way too,” she laughed.