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The Alex With Joy Bowen-Eyre, CEO

By June 6th, 2024No Comments16 min read
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Discovery Pod | Joy Bowen-Eyre | The Alex

Do you want to make a difference? Today’s episode dives into the world of The Alex, Calgary’s largest community health center. Joy Bowen-Eyre, the CEO of, joins us to explore how they provide vital health and social services to vulnerable populations, from youth to seniors. Hear from Joy about their mission to make a real difference in people’s lives. We also uncover the unique work culture at The Alex, known for its collaborative spirit, positive vibes, and dedication to its clients. Whether you’re looking for a career change or simply want to be inspired by community heroes, this episode is for you!

Listen to the podcast here


The Alex With Joy Bowen-Eyre, CEO

I’m pleased to be joined by Joy Bowen-Eyre, who is the CEO of The Alex in Calgary. We’re going to be talking about an exciting role, the Director of Development role with The Alex. Welcome, Joy.

Thank you.

I appreciate your spending some time. I’m looking forward to learning more about you, learning more about The Alex and certainly talking about the exciting future at The Alex. For those people who may not be familiar with The Alex, you’ve got such a strong name in Calgary and Alberta for that matter. Tell me more about The Alex for someone who may not know too much about it or may have a superficial impression.

We’ve been in operation for the past 50 years. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year.


Thank you. We are a community health center. Many folks ask, “What is a community health center?” It’s a great question because a Community Health Center is a place for folks to gather where they can get all of their needs in one place. We are a perfect blend of primary healthcare services along with social services support.

We serve the vulnerable population in Calgary and the surrounding area. With that, we have a multitude of programs, clinics, and services. For example, we have five clinics. We serve youth, seniors, and everybody in between. We have a pre and postnatal program. We also do mobile care. We have learned through our years in providing service that not everybody can get access to good healthcare.

If they can’t, we need to figure out how to get to them. We have four mobile health buses that go specifically to where folks are at. We have a dental health bus that goes to see students in grade two and grade five, and that’s all fully fundraised. This is an exciting opportunity for the director of development to dig their teeth into.

I see what you did there.

It’s assumed that oral health is paid for by some level of government and it’s not. It’s an exciting program. We also serve folks via housing. We have five housing programs. We serve people who were homeless or were unhoused. While that program is 100% funded by the provincial government, there are things and elements of those programs that folks need a little bit more help and support with.

This role would be critical to helping out with our housing departments as well. One of the most exciting programs that we have that people get excited about is food. As many are aware, there’s a food insecurity issue that’s gurgling in our country. We have a community food center. That’s a partnership and a collaboration with Food Centers National.

That’s a separate location in our main site, but that’s another program that is heavily funded by philanthropic dollars. It’s a beautiful community development-type program. Folks in the community get to gather, they get to learn to cook, they get to learn a little bit about their neighbors, and they get to learn to help their neighbors.

It’s about coming together, gathering, and creating that, fostering that great sense of community. It’s a great place for Corporate Calgary to come in and do a day of caring. It’s a great opportunity to work directly with many folks in our city to help build that community health center model. That’s a little bit about us.

I love that broad view of health. You have oral care, housing, food, mental health supports, youth, seniors, the whole gamut of health, that whole wraparound mentality of all stages, people that need the support or in some cases, need it and just don’t know it. That’s an amazing work you’re doing. That’s the collective work about The Alex. Tell me more about you. What is your why? Why do you do the work that you do?

I have always had jobs that involve helping people. I will be personal. I lost my mom when I was twelve years old when we had just moved to Canada. I was raised in a traditional British home, and my dad didn’t want to ask for help. What I found is that lots of people came in to try and help and support me. Through that journey of grief and loss and developing your community, what I learned was that helping people was what filled my bucket.

I was drawn to The Alex because of all of the organizations that I could have worked with, The Alex is truly one that offers impact. How it offers impact is when you hear about all the different programs that we offer, oral health care, mental health and addictions, primary health care, food, housing, we meet people where they’re at.

Many of the folks that come into our place on their first day, it’s sometimes they’re one of the worst days that they’re having. They’ve heard about us. They know that we offer services and support, but they don’t know what that is. Once they start to step into our doors and see the types of programs and services that we offer, it starts to shift to make a difference for people.

It fills my bucket in terms of my why about helping and making a difference for people. What you need to know about me is I’m not a status-quo girl. I love to make an impact. I love to embrace innovation. I love to think about new ways that we can support people. I think the world is consistently changing. I think one thing we know is that change is constant.

Five years ago, we weren’t talking about food insecurity in Canada. We weren’t talking about a housing crisis. We can’t still be offering the same types of programs and services that we did five years ago when we’re having national conversations about basic needs. I’m a big fan of stepping in and leading into working with other organizations and partnering with others to try and solve some of these big issues that not-for-profits are quite often tasked with solving.

I love the innovation. I love the impact focus and certainly, I appreciate your personal story. Thanks so much for sharing that. That’s quite beautiful and quite moving. Thank you for that. When you think about working at The Alex, you’re working with other people, it’s a collective effort. What is the work culture you’re trying to create at The Alex? What’s it like to be there right now as a staff member and leader?

When I started here, quite soon on, I felt that we needed to coin a name or a phrase for all of us. We describe ourselves as Alexians. If you look in the background, I’m a bit of a Star Wars nerd. I thought it was a great way to bring people together. I’ve always been a huge fan of trying to ensure that we have the best people working here who are a fit for our organization and a fit for our culture.

People are drawn to work here, regardless of the role, whether you’re in health, whether you’re in housing, oral healthcare, whether you’re in food, or any of our administrative and business support functions because they’re drawn to the mission of helping people and making a difference in the lives of others.

If that’s you and you’re interested in making a difference, but your differences in helping philanthropic and fund development, then this is the role for you because we feel deeply here. We are a group of empaths who want to make a difference in the lives of those who need a little bit of extra support. That’s the culture here. We’re pretty laid back.

Business cash is the dress code of the day. Even our doctors, the majority of them wear Vans, which we love. We play music here. The reason why we play music on our main site is that it helps our clients and our patients. It makes it feel safer and more welcoming. It’s not sterile here. You’re entering a healthcare facility. Today they were playing some ‘80s grunge rock when I was doing this.

I was going to say the music could help or could have hindered in some cases based on your tastes, but as a music fan myself, I appreciate that.

Collaboration In The Leadership Table

Fridays are Reggae Fridays. We have throwback Thursdays. When clients walk in our door, they appreciate that we’re playing music. It’s a colorful place. We don’t ask, “What’s wrong with you?” We ask, “What happened to you?” We want to know your story so we can help start to get you on a better path of wellness and health. That’s us.

We want to know your story to help you get on a better path of wellness and health. Click To Tweet

Amongst the empaths, amongst the group, you’ve got these diverse programs. How do people at the leadership table, at the leadership group, how does the staff come together? How does that collaboration happen? Thinking about the director and their partnerships.

We have several different ways in which we connect. We have town halls. We had our town hall last month. We had over 250 people there, physicians, frontline staff, and leadership. We brought in a guest speaker. We did informing, educating, updating, and sharing. We did a guest spotlight on a trans individual who transitioned into the workplace and is also making a significant impact in the trans world. Our staff loved that.

We have monthly leadership meetings. Anybody who’s a supervisor or above, we gather and have a meeting for 90 minutes. We share and we provide education and information. We have a core leadership and development training program for anybody as supervisor and above. A new cohort is starting. Everybody is excited about that. We’re getting everybody some tips and tricks and tools.

I know we find in the not-for-profit world is you may be a fantastic nurse or a fantastic social worker and then you applied to be a supervisor of that team. It’s sets out skillsets. Quite often we forget to arm you with those new skillsets. I think one of the biggest things that we need to work on here at The Alex is that not everybody knows about us. Once you know about us, you tend to be one of our biggest fans and you’re like the president of our fan club but if you don’t know about us, you’ll ask, “Why would you give to us?”

Why would you give to us if you don’t know what the impact that we have? This position will be working strongly with the Communications department to work on having impact stories, working on thanking donors specifically via social media channels, everything from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I think that’s a good opportunity for connection.

Let’s talk about that. Let’s pivot to the director of development role. That’s what we’re extensively talking about here. We’re recruiting for a new director. What’s exciting about fundraising at The Alex? What does the future hold here?

I think what’s super exciting about us is that we offer a little bit for everybody. Quite often folks will come in here and they’re like, “I want to give to your housing programs because we know that there’s a housing crisis.” Once we start to have a conversation with people, then we start to pivot them and say, “Have you heard about our mobile buses?”

We do dental, we see preschoolers, we go to schools, we go to folks who are in encampments, and we do pre and postnatal care. All of a sudden, there’s a little bit of something for everybody in the work that we do. I think in terms of the director for development, what we’re looking for is somebody who is a strategic thinker and can create a strategic plan for us from a fund development perspective, work directly with the finance department, and say, “Tell me what’s already funded, tell me where the gaps are, and what areas of programming do you need support with?”

Based on that, I think there are ways in which we can include people in many different things. Fund development for me, I want to be clear, it’s not just about money. It’s about your time and your talents. What else can you do that can support us in our community? For example, because we have multiple different sites, and multiple different programs, if there’s a corporate group who wants to come in and volunteer for a day, we’d love to have you help paint one of the homes that we run for folks who were previously homeless.

Discovery Pod | Joy Bowen-Eyre | The Alex

The Alex: It’s not just about money. It’s about your time and your talents. What you do have and what you can offer can help support us in our community.


Maybe you can do some gardening for us. Maybe you can plant some flowers for us. Maybe you can serve a meal at one of our community kitchens. There are lots of different ways to engage with us and I think this person will have the ability to work with all the different ways in which Calgarians can work in partnership and collaborate with us.

Money is the bottom line ultimately in some ways, which is different ways of accessing support, accessing the community, building community, and building that engagement. As you say, you alluded to that before, The Alex being such a well-kept secret in some way. Getting the word out and getting some of these stories out is so important fundamentally. How would the director earn a gold star then in your team? What are some measures for success or things you’d like to see this person successfully doing?

The first thing is to connect with the team for sure. We’ve got some teammates who’ve been with us. Some have been in the fun development world for twenty years and some are new to fund development. One thing that they said to us when we were embarking upon positioning this role is they’re pretty solid in what they’re doing as individuals, but how do strategically they fit into the rest of their organization?

What they’re looking for is for somebody to say, “Have you thought of? Have you considered? Can you connect with? What if we try this?” They’re looking for somebody to help them strategically fit into the rest of The Alex. This person would earn a gold star by being a team player. There is no role at The Alex for somebody who wants to be an I. There’s only a role if you want to be a we.

Your gold star would be working directly with all of the other programs, services, and clinics to get to understand what their needs are so that you can help position us out in the community as an organization that somebody else wants to partner with, whether that be with your time, your talent, or your treasure.

Getting people thinking about The Alex as a destination for their philanthropic and community support. Why do you think someone would want to leave their job and come join you? , What’s compelling about The Alex that someone would want to move on and consider a career at The Alex with you?

What’s Compelling About The Alex

Because we’re fun. That’s the deal. People walk in here, whether you’re a board member, a donor, somebody from any level of government, or another community partner. We have a palpable vibe here, which I love. Even on a bad day, if you’ve had a bad day like traffic was bad, you spilled coffee on your lap, you walk into our place and you’re like, “This is home and this feels good.” I think that for some folks is what it takes. For somebody who has high energy, likes people, likes making a difference in the lives of others, wants to be part of a larger team, and wants to be part of one of the largest not-for-profits in Calgary making a big impact, this role is for you.

Fundamentally, as I pointed out before, it’s a build in many ways because you’ve got this 50-year history of success and remarkable work you’ve done in the community, and looking for somebody that can have a program of fun development and philanthropy that’s on par with the rest of the work you’re doing.

Here’s the deal. We would love to purchase this building that we’re in. If we get to purchase this building that we’re in, I see a capital campaign in the future, which would be super exciting for somebody.

That’s a great segue to my next question in terms of what excites you most about the future of The Alex. What’s on the horizon that’s exciting and compelling for you and or the director for that matter?

What we’re most excited about is one of our strategic priorities was trying to get key stakeholders, namely the provincial government, to understand that what a community health center is. That is coming to fruition. We have been working with the government. We’re about to embark on receiving significant grants from the government to bolster our health care and social services support.

It will allow us to expand our hours, and create better access for those who need access to health care. We’ll be able to attract more patients. That’s doctor speak. Meaning that you’ll attach a patient to a doctor as a panel. We’re very, excited about that because this means that we’ll be able to help more people, but there are also some limitations with that because there’ll be the assumption that the government is paying for everything.

From a strategic perspective, we always want to be in a place where it’s government and community that is creating a community health center. From both a board and a leadership perspective, it’s critical to ensure that we have diversity in terms of revenue streams. We have an opportunity to expand our services to serve more people and that is glorious.

Discovery Pod | Joy Bowen-Eyre | The Alex

The Alex: It’s critical to ensure that we have diversity in terms of revenue streams to have an opportunity to expand our services and serve more people.


We’ve talked about some of the opportunities of the role in terms of the 50-year history, but that’s part of the message and the impact that your story as a best-kept secret is that you have been government-funded for a long time, but there’s a great community aspect here that can be built up to both demonstrate and give people the opportunity to engage and support what you’re doing. This has been a lively and fun conversation. Just in closing, any final messages for candidates or people who are curious or interested.

If you’re curious, I would encourage you to apply. Let’s have a conversation. Let’s talk about what inspires you. Let’s talk about ways in which you can come and contribute at The Alex and make a difference.

Let's talk about what inspires you. Let's talk about how you can come and contribute at the Alex and make a difference. Click To Tweet

On that note, I would encourage people to apply or reach out. We are open to questions. Reach out to me directly at [email protected]. It’s posted on our site. It’s posted on your site. It’s on LinkedIn. People hopefully shouldn’t have any problems learning about The Alex or this exciting opportunity. We’re looking forward to having some great conversations with candidates in the coming weeks for that matter.

Sounds good and you’re welcome to contact me if you want. I’ve got a pretty good social media presence.

That you do. You’re out in the public, that’s for sure.

I’m out in public and sharing all the good stuff that our team does. It’s certainly not me, I’ve got a fantastic team.

On that note, I appreciated our conversation. I’m looking forward to continuing our work together. We’ll chat again soon, I’m sure.

That sounds good. Thank you.

I appreciate it.


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