Born in England and raised in other areas, including Africa, Kerry Hobbs has lived a largely nomadic life. And happily so.
Something in her changed, though, when she and her husband, Guy, moved to Creston.
“Three months after we arrived here, I said to Guy, ‘I think I’m finished moving around,’ ” she said.
She couldn’t have foreseen that not much more than a year later she would be sitting at a desk, talking about her role as the new manager of Creston’s College of the Rockies campus.
Hobbs has a varied background of education and experience, though, and the hiring committee was obviously impressed with what they saw in her. She has practiced as a registered nurse and midwife, taught doctors how to use medical equipment, sold pharmaceuticals and managed hotels.
“We loved Creston when we were still living in Castlegar,” she said. “But everyone said you don’t move to Creston unless you have a job to go to!”
In the West Kootenay, Hobbs was in management at two hotels. Guy worked at the Castlegar News and pursued his talent for drawing wildlife.
“I’m still grinning from ear-to-ear 24 hours a day,” she said. “I told Kathy (Tompkins, her predecessor, who retired this fall) that this feels like a job I could stay at until I retire.”
Her first month on the job has involved learning about how the Creston campus fits into the COTR group of facilities around the Kootenays, and about the many partnerships it has within the Creston Valley.
“To be able to link education with our other community partners is our mission,” she said. “The chamber of commerce, Kootenay Employment Services, the Lower Kootenay Band, the Creston Valley Advance — those and many others are vital in making us who we are. I don’t see us as a standalone educational facility. Without the support of other groups, we wouldn’t be here.”
The college offers a variety of programs. Some run continuously, like the academic courses for adults, while others are referred to as “rolling” — they are offered every several years in Creston as they rotate through other East Kootenay campuses. Rolling programs include health care assistant and hairdressing.
Special interest courses, like arts, are largely dependent on people who live in the community and have special skills. Program necessities, ones that are needed in every community, include several levels of first aid and Food Safe.
Hobbs cites two areas that often intertwine as recent focuses. Agriculture courses, including the Know and Grow Community Farm, Kootenay Farm School and beginner farmer training, build on the Creston Valley’s agriculture base. Social programs have worked to bring people of all ages — families, elementary school students, adults and seniors — together, typically through greenhouse programs.
“These have both been successful but we will work to continue expanding them,” she said.
Stepping into a new career has been smoothed by the support of an experienced office staff and dedicated group of instructors, she emphasized.
“These people offer a Vancouver level of instruction right here in Creston,” Hobbs said. “We are very fortunate.”
Her commitment to a community she has grown to love means inviting local residents’ input.
“I want to hear from people,” she said. “Tell us what you want to learn. We welcome suggestions.”
Hobbs hopes to organize an open house at the college in the spring to show the public what a valuable resource they have in their neighbourhood, and to invite comments and new ideas for programs.
“We are only as strong as the community around us,” she smiled. “And I think that makes us very, very strong.”