Before managing a nonprofit store in Nanaimo, Traci Higgins was an interior designer catering to luxury clients in Victoria. Higgins left the cushy gig and network of friends behind in mid-August to give back to the community as the new manager of Nanaimo's Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
She has since been involved in revitalizing the store, which sells new and used building materials and supplies.
Higgins chose Nanaimo because she loves the city and can easily visit her extended family in Port Alberni.
What drew you to Nanaimo and when did you arrive? I grew up in Port Alberni, up-Island, so after years in Vancouver and Victoria I just felt the need to be close to home. I have a growing number of family there, nieces and nephews and all that good stuff, so I thought Nanaimo was a good central location. I was looking for jobs, particularly in Nanaimo. Then I ended up being offered this job with Habitat.
What challenges have you faced? I guess the biggest challenge I've faced is leaving my comfort zone behind in Victoria. You know, leaving your friends and colleagues and network behind. Even just leaving my favourite grocery store behind and my favourite coffee shops and restaurants. So that's been the biggest challenge, starting a totally unknown job and finding my spot in the community. But I'm meeting interesting people everyday. It's been really great.
How are you integrating into the community and what do you bring to Nanaimo? The only real access I've had to meeting people at this point, because I've been working so much, is the people I'm meeting from work. The job has really helped me to get out there and meet people. I think anytime a new person comes into a situation they bring an interesting new perspective. I'm just really excited to build the charity, help people in our community and make sure people have a good standard of living. I came from an industry that was, really, so over-indulgent. I love working for this non-profit now and feeling like we're really making a difference.
What is the most underrated thing in/about Nanaimo, from your point of view? I would have to say the downtown core is underrated here. I don't know many people who go there to shop or eat. I've been spending a little bit of time walking around down there and there are so many good shops and restaurants, the waterfront is right there, what more could you want? Even the parking is great. I don't know why more people don't go spend their time or dollars in the downtown core.
If you could make one change to Nanaimo, what would it be? I'd have to say the downtown also. Coming from Victoria where there's such a thriving downtown, there's so much potential there. I totally get the appeal of the big box shopping, with the affordability and accessibility, but I think you also need to have a balance and think about supporting those local businesses. It does seem like the city is doing things to try and bring people in but I don't know if the community is getting on board with it. All in all, though, it's still too new to tell. Out of quick observation that's one thing I think could use a lot of work.
© Copyright 2013