We extend a sincere mazel tov to congregant Hilary Marks, the first recipient of the Kim Manton Spirit Award.
Kim Manton was a well-respected Victoria labour and political activist who died in June 2020. Kim’s sunny disposition, enthusiasm, passion and energy made those around her want to work harder, do more and reach further to make the world a better place. To honour her life, Kim’s colleagues created the Kim Manton Spirit Award, which recognizes an outstanding individual in Victoria who upholds the belief that everyone, particularly those in greatest need, deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.
Hilary Marks embodies the spirit and intent of the Kim Manton Spirit Award. Generous with her time, respectful and caring, Hilary is deeply committed to the well-being and dignity of those living in poverty. For decades, she has worked for the rights of people struggling on low incomes, those who are homeless, and those dealing with addiction or mental illness. The Kim Manton Spirit Award publicly acknowledges Hilary’s significant history of work—both paid and volunteer—that has improved the lives of others. Hilary is someone who has reached further and done more to improve conditions for those whose voices we rarely hear.
Hilary works, in her words, “to be a voice for those who cannot speak because they have been downtrodden for too long; to listen to and fight for those suffering because of a lack of will in government. People who know me, know that I am a doer, a go-getter and I will do as I say and get answers.”
Hilary seems tireless. For 4 1/2 years, she has worked in one of the city’s homeless shelters. She’s been volunteering with Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) on their phone lines since 2009; with TAPS’ Volunteer Disability Advocacy Project, assisting clients apply for provincial disability benefits; and she has sat as a TAPS board member. Other volunteer positions have included the Burnside Gorge Community Centre’s first Family Self Sufficiency Project; Peers; Congregation Emanu-El’s Avodah; Our Place; Point in Time (PiT) Count, which involves going out and speaking with homeless people on Victoria streets and counting the numbers; Anawim House; SkaFest and the Selkirk Waterway Festival. She advocated to get phones for the homeless during COVID (through SPARC BC). At the same time, Hilary has been providing individual advocacy—offering direct help to individuals in poverty to enable them to receive housing, medical care, recovery support and food, assistance with unlawful eviction and, when safe, Hilary visits people in hospital. All her work has become more intense through the COVID pandemic.
Fighting at all levels of government and society for the social inclusion of people in poverty, Hilary has been involved with UVic research, with Victoria City Council, BC provincial government and local not-for-profit agencies, as well as with a range of programs, coalitions, research programs, conferences, committees, speaking engagements, rallies, discussions, and political actions to focus on strategies to end homelessness, on poverty reduction, drug issues and social issues. She has also been on the board of directors of several Victoria agencies.
Hilary’s commitment to her community goes back decades, to a time when she was raising a young child on her own. Over two decades ago, she joined and piloted the first Regional Child Care Council, breaking ground to bring the struggles of families for affordable day care to the attention of government. And this year, Hilary is thrilled that her daughter graduated with a BA from the University of Victoria.
Several Congregation Emanu-El programs—Avodah, involvement with GVAT, Faith in Action, BEMA’s support of not-for-profits—operate under the premise that social action leads to social justice, and thus we participate in tikkun olam (repair of the world). The creators of the Kim Manton Spirit Award have recognized Hilary Marks’ sincere and long-term dedication to bettering the lives of those in need. She is a woman actively engaged in repairing the world.