Peninsula Voices – Denny Warner: Community Maker

by Stephanie Staples | photo by Kathryn Alvarez Photography – 

If you’ve been in this community any amount of time, you’ve likely run across Denny Warner, or at least seen her name in print; she’s a mover, shaker and community maker!

I first met Denny when she was the Executive Director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, and I could tell right away that this lady knew how to get things done. A quick thinker, an opportunity seeker and a meaningful connector, Denny has been a champion for our community. She said during the work-from-home Covid timeframe, in between her Chamber role and her present role as the ED of the Mary Winspear Centre, she missed her close connection to the community.

But she’s back now! Denny’s in her sweet spot again and planning to take our very own Mary Winspear Centre, and her own life, to new horizons.

Mary Winspear Centre is a gem in our community. As patrons and community members we just see what’s stagefront; what do you want people to know about the goings on “backstage” of MWC, and how can we help it to thrive?

Most people in the community have had an opportunity to visit the Centre to get vaccinated; donate blood; attend a show, celebration of life, craft fair, yoga or a meeting; but they likely have no idea of the volume of activity that happens in this place on a daily basis. It isn’t lip service to say that we are the heart of the community. We accommodate movie crews, fruit sellers and many others in our parking area; our activities also include management of Blue Heron Park. We facilitate cultural and social opportunities for the community that contribute to mental and physical well-being.

As an Executive Director you have to/get to make a multitude of decisions, take on a lot of responsibility and implement strategic tactics to benefit the long-term goals of an organization. How are the skills you need to be a great ED useful and/or challenging in your personal life?

I don’t think I am the same person at work as I am at home. At work, my multitasking and quick decision making are important. I have a fairly low-key home life that includes cooking, knitting, reading and spending time with my dogs and friends. My former book club welcomed me back and as a new empty nester, I appreciate that social outlet. I am a lifelong learner and I enjoy books that teach me new skills as well as ones that entertain.

As a parent, I have been entirely focused on my children for the past 20 years and it is both exciting and a little daunting to be considering me and my future. I am looking forward to a trip to Peru next fall but for now, I am thankful to have the opportunity to bring my skills and attention to the Mary Winspear Centre.

Your volunteer work in Restorative Justice (RJ) for the past eight years is sort of “under the radar” but is extremely important to you. Tell us about the training, work and impact your passion project has had on you, and on others? What can we do to understand and learn more about RJ?

I have been a practitioner of Nonviolent Communication for many years and it was through that network that I was first introduced to Restorative Justice Victoria. I undertook the lengthy training and began as a Facilitator and then moved into the mentor role. I enjoy that role best because it allows me a longer connection with my clients: starting from their entry into the program through to when the terms of their agreement are complete. I think the most common misconception about RJ is that it is an easy way out for people convicted of crimes. I have worked with participants who were charged with serious and less-serious crimes and all would agree that the RJ process is challenging and requires far more introspection and focus on addressing the harm than would happen in a jail cell. For many reasons, including the reduced recidivism rate, the largely positive experiences of the responsible and affected parties and the financial benefits of diverting cases from the traditional court system, I would love to see more cases dealt with through restorative justice.

What are your go-to spots on the Peninsula to relax?

I enjoy the variety of shows in our own Charlie White Theatre but I also like to support the artists who don’t (yet) have a large following. You will find me listening to music at the smaller venues around town including Beacon Brewing, Small Gods Brewing and Mary’s Bleue Moon Café. If I can’t find someone to go with me, I am happy to go alone. I rarely leave home without a book in my purse and will contentedly spend time at a Peninsula restaurant or pub enjoying a meal I didn’t cook, a beverage and the ambiance. The antidote for a busy work day for me is found in nature. Most days, my dogs and I travel the trails at Horth Hill. The other jewel of Deep Cove is the Market. It’s the best place to meet people for coffee and is the perfect place to buy a gift or to grab something for dinner.

In order to do your vocation, your volunteer work and your life exceptionally well, I imagine you must be part professional listener and part professional “doer!” For those of us who could use some advice in those areas – help us out!

I think most people have a good idea about the places they feel stuck and often just want someone to listen. I am in the Executive Director position at the Mary Winspear Centre in large part because, over time, I developed heartfelt connections with people and I actively sought support from my network. Asking for assistance was difficult for me, but the joyful spirit in which it was offered was incredibly humbling and rewarding. Many of us get so used to doing everything on our own that asking for help feels like a personal failure, and yet, utilizing the strength and efficiency of our hive creates an even greater sense of belonging.

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