Our Story

Helen Burnham and Virginia Giles know all too well the unique challenges women face when battling drug and alcohol addiction. The pair met on their path to recovery from alcoholism, sharing the shame and guilt they felt about their addiction, and an understanding of how lonely and challenging recovery can be as a woman.

They both realized that having a safe space for women to connect and support each other was a key part of the path to addiction recovery. The only problem was, a space like this didn’t exist.

Helen and Virginia decided to take action. In 1990, they opened the first Avalon Women’s Centre in Vancouver. It was a warm, inviting space for women to share their stories, free of judgement and with others who had been there before. It was a beacon of hope for women around the Lower Mainland, who travelled from far and wide to attend.

The demand for the centres grew, and in 1997 the Avalon Women’s Centre in the North Shore opened, followed by the Avalon Women’s Centre in White Rock in 2012.

Today, these drop-in centres and meeting spaces help hundreds of women each month on the road to recovery. They provide compassionate, caring and safe spaces where women can heal themselves, and in turn, one another.

Virginia Giles & Helen Burnham

Founders of Avalon Recovery Society

Our Purpose, Vision, and Mission

Our Purpose

Avalon is a nurturing community that offers hope, compassionate support, resources and profound connections for women and their families caught in the despair of addiction. Our programs and services are accessible to anyone who identifies and lives full time as a woman and is seeking recovery.

Our Vision

To be where women seek recovery.

Our Mission

We create community for women seeking freedom from addiction, empowering them to thrive. We do this by:

The Birch Tree

Birch Tree at Avalon Women’s Centre North Shore

In Celtic mythology, the birch tree symbolizes renewal and rebirth. For many women, Avalon Recovery Society is a place where they can find new beginnings and a life free from addiction.

The symbol of the birch tree is at the heart of our organization, represented in our logo and spread across the walls of each of our Centres.

At Avalon Women’s Centres, each leaf of the birch tree contains the name of a woman who has come through our doors, and the date she attained sobriety.


Our Board of Directors

Avalon Recovery Society is governed by a dedicated volunteer Board of Directors.

Eileen Kenkel


Telus Communications Inc.

Reesha Siddiqui


Telus Communications Inc.

Carrie DeJong


Registered Clinical Counsellor
Carrie DeJong & Associates

Annie McCullough


Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada

Bojana Nedic


I/O Psychologist
Bojana Nedic Consulting

Valerie Olafson


Retired Teacher

Directors Emeritus

Helen Burnham, OBC



Avalon Recovery Society offers all of its services and programs at no cost, however individuals can choose to become Avalon Recovery Society Members and enhance their involvement in the organization.  

Avalon Recovery Society Members: 

Membership cost is an annual fee of $10.

Membership fees can also be paid by cheque to Avalon Women’s Centre Vancouver, 5957 West Boulevard, Vancouver BC V6M 3X1.

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