Fifteen years of working with youth at risk in his 20s and 30s has given Clair MacGougan a special incentive to do all he can to make the Hastings Sunrise community as safe and supportive as possible.
And it all started with – what else? – volunteering!
“I was young and looking for a career, and one of the guys on my rugby team was working for a Vancouver agency that provided services for youth at risk,” said Clair.
“They accepted volunteers, so I volunteered for a year and then applied for a full-time job – and they hired me. I was 20, their youngest employee ever.
“If it wasn’t for volunteering, I wouldn’t have been hired!” said Clair.
And for the past 15 years he has poured his passion for community engagement and organizational development into the Hastings Sunrise Community Policing Centre, first as coordinator and then executive director.
Clair was born in Summerside, PEI, the youngest of six children in a farm family. His father switched from farming to cooking and brought his family to BC in 1971.
In high school, Clair played varsity basketball, soccer and rugby, plus baseball and football in community leagues. For 10 years he played club-level rugby with the Surrey Beavers Rugby Club.
In his early 20s, Clair moved to Vancouver to take on the challenge of working with youth at risk. He worked as manager, consultant and front-line worker in youth justice and social service programming.
He took a break at age 25 to backpack through the Middle East and Europe for six months, and spent a couple of months doing volunteer work on a kibbutz in Israel.
Clair was ready for a career change in 2002 when he spotted an ad for someone to help local residents develop a community policing centre in north-east Vancouver.
Fifteen years later he has become a vital part of our community, despite living miles away in central Vancouver.
“Hastings Sunrise has become my second home,” said Clair.
“My wife, Carolyn, and I cherish the relationships that we have developed while working at the HSCPC. And I love the diversity in our organization – we have volunteers of all ages, speaking 21 languages!” he said.
“I’ve worked closely with victims, offenders and police over the years, and that has given me new perspectives and insights,” said Clair. “I am very appreciative of the Vancouver Police Department and their progressive ways.”
To re-balance his busy life, Clair seeks out the quiet pleasures of BC’s fly-fishing lakes and streams, often with friends he has made on the VPD. “I’m a fanatic,” he said. “I’ve been crazy about fishing since I was four years old!”
He likes to cook and garden – and the years haven’t dulled his keenness for playing sports. “I still play soccer with a local group every Saturday, and I’m a proud member of the CPC soccer team.”
■ Written by Chester Grant