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Together for Health

Community Stories

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Alex and Jo Campbell's family legacy at Camosun

Family's gift to the college is a gift to the whole community

Jo and Alex Campbell (photo courtesy of the Campbell family)

In May 2018, Camosun unveiled the official name of the new health building: the Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness. This is more than a name – it's a legacy, a gift to the whole community from one of the most philanthropic families in Victoria.

Alex Campbell was the founder of Thrifty Foods, the local grocery chain with stores around Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. While Alex passed away from cancer in 2011 and the grocery business is now owned by Sobeys Inc., his spirit lives on through his family.

Alex's wife Jo wanted to support health care and ongoing learning because of the care that Alex received when he was in hospital. This is her way of thanking and giving back to the community.

"When you have somebody going through a medical crisis you rely on the team that is there everyday: the nurses and support staff," says Jo Campbell. "It's the people providing the daily care who make it better for the patient and their families."

She reminisces about the impact that one nurse had on her family. This nurse, whom she remembers by name, was the person that the family saw the most over the course of the time Alex was in the hospital. Jo recalls her great sense of humour, ability to adapt to any situation, and how she put the family at ease.

The Campbell family also saw that with an aging population and a health care workforce on the cusp of retirement, the need for state-of-the-art training is only going to get greater.

"Hopefully a facility like this will motivate people to go into the health field," says Jo's son, Lorne Campbell, who worked at Thrifty's as a department director and now runs his own small business. "It's going to be a world-class facility with the latest approaches to training professionals."

The centre is being built just metres from the Alex Campbell Field at PISE on Camosun's Interurban campus, creating the sense of a continued legacy. These gifts of health and active lifestyle are in keeping with the Campbell's philosophy of giving.

"Through Thrifty's, we always supported health care-related causes," says daughter Bonnie Campbell, former vice president of human resources and public relations with Thrifty Foods. "We like to be on the cutting-edge, supporting the incubators where all these future health professionals will come from."

The Campbell family holds deep values around health care, and they also have a long relationship with Camosun. Thrifty's has had a corporate relationship with the college, yet Jo has defined her own course by creating bursaries for Camosun nursing students. Like Thrifty Foods, the college is grassroots, local, and committed to supporting community.

What the Campbell family experienced while their father was in the hospital was collaborative care in action, a team-centred approach that ensures that patients get the best care.

Camosun's new Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness will train the next generation of health care providers in the basics of collaborative care. The building is designed for students from a variety of disciplines to work together, just as they would in the professional world.

Jo's wish is that every person can receive the exemplary care that her husband did at the end of his life.

"It's the highest calling, to care for people" she says. "I'm thankful everyday that we have people willing to do that very selfless work."

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