Avalon Recovery Society

Our history and mission

Our history and mission

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.

Founders of Avalon Recovery Society - Virginia Giles and Helen Burnham

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.

The Birch Tree

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.

The trees are a reminder of the many women who have benefited from the warmth and welcome of Avalon Recovery Society, and from each other.

Birch Tree at Avalon Women's Centre North Shore
Birch Tree at Avalon Women's Centre North Shore

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 addictions.

Our vision

To be where women seek recovery.

Our mission

We create community for women seeking freedom from addictions, empowering them to thrive.

We do this by:

  • Accepting women at any place on the recovery continuum
  • Encouraging self-awareness, change and growth
  • Enabling self-care
  • Demonstrating integrity, accountability, honesty and respect
  • Being an enduring presence in women’s lives
  • Ensuring our services are accessible to all women