Board of Directors Team

The Forward House Board of Directors is made up of a dedicated group of volunteers with a wide range of professional and life experience. Their combined expertise and passionate commitment to community service and to Forward House makes them an awesome team!

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Janet Walker

Island born (Port Alberni), Janet comes to us with a healthcare background. She was a manager and an administrator in cancer care as well as an adjunct professor. Her other Board experience centered around non-profit community services. In her spare time, Janet can be found practicing for her piano lesson, catching fish, or digging in her garden in Nanoose.

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Marianne O’Brien

Marianne came to the Board of Forward House after retiring from Island Health. As a community mental health outreach nurse, Marianne brings a deep understanding of the realities people with mental health and addiction challenges face. Still learning and giving, Marianne is active in healing practices in the community. She lives in Parksville with her husband John and their labradoodle Jack. Their combined total of nine grandchildren ensure lots of joy in their life.


Wanda Brown
Vice President

Wanda has lived on Vancouver Island for 22 years and loves it.   For many years, she applied her history and rehabilitation education to vocational rehabilitation and employment services in Nanaimo.  Now retired, Wanda shares those skills and more with Forward House. She believes strongly that we are here to support the staff and volunteers for everything they give to our clients.  In her free time, Wanda happily grapples with jigsaw puzzles and mystery novels.


Mary Parkinson

Mary has a long professional background in airline and other industries, and has always had a deep commitment to volunteerism. She began serving her community when she was a teenager and continues to this day. Following in the footsteps of her late sister, Carol, who founded Forward House, Mary lives and represents the philosophy, the heart and the history of this organization. A cancer survivor, Mary makes the most of her free time dog walking, gardening and enjoying classic films.


Jo Dunn
Director at Large

Another returnee to the Island after a successful career in business, Jo has served the Board for a number of years, including two terms as President. He brings his long experience in community service as well as his valued skills of collaborative leadership. Happiness for Jo is enjoying his family life that includes eight grandchildren.

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Phil Dwyer
Director at Large

A Member of the Order of Canada (2013), Phil devotes his time to a love of music, the practice of law and a commitment to advocating in the area of mental health and addictions. He has worked in this field in Toronto and has been a past volunteer with Forward House. His work-life balance includes organic vegetable gardening at his home in Qualicum Beach and the occasional fishing trip to Bamfield.


Jamie Johnson
Director at Large

Born, raised, and currently residing in Nanaimo, Jamie brings her many talents to the board of Forward House.  Her background is in psychology, human resources and financial planning, particularly retirement planning.  We especially rely on Jamie for her knowledgeable role in planned giving.  For relaxation, Jamie and her husband Mike explore their beloved West Coast.  Her dream is to one day live on the beach in Parksville.


Marilyn St. Clair
Director at Large

Marilyn brings her many years of experience working in a wide variety of human resource contexts. Currently the Island Regional Work Experience & Alumnus Services Director at Discovery College, she has also worked as a Family Service Consultant, advocated for seniors, and worked in healthcare, tourism, and job creation. After twenty years living in the U.S., Marilyn returned to Canada in 2014 and resides in Nanoose Bay. She spends her spare time driving up and down the Island with her trusty companion “Tucker” and enjoying the beautiful Northwest.


Sharon Welch
Executive Director

Sharon is committed to lifelong learning and helping others. Her career has included music instruction, employment services, human resources, and management. She joined the Forward House team in 2014 and was tasked with the overall leadership of the organization. Sharon loves diverse challenges, and you’ll often find her working on everything from staff development to community outreach and grant writing. If Sharon isn't at Forward House, it’s probably because she’s out on the water enjoying everything coastal living has to offer.