Board of Directors

Meet our board members

Melinda Friesen

President
Clearbrook Grain & Milling

Melinda Friesen is the General Manager of Nature’s Pride Nutrition, a local vitamin premix business, and is also the Director of Communications and Marketing for the Friesen Group of Companies, which includes the company’s main poultry and livestock feed milling operation, Clearbrook Grain & Milling. Born and raised in Abbotsford, Melinda attended MEI for her high school education. After high school graduation and a brief traveling hiatus, she returned and began her career in studies at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). At the same time, she also accepted a position to perform part-time receptionist duties at Clearbrook Grain & Milling. After one year, the growth and demands of the companies personnel needs encouraged her to take on full-time hours and expand her role. She continued at UFV as a part-time student until 2006 when she graduated with her Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing major, while earning a spot on the Dean’s list of distinguished students. She was selected as the valedictorian to present the graduation address for the class of 2006.

Over the past 20 years, the benefits of her education, professional development, and being involved in a family-owned and operated business have enabled her to pursue a variety of positions within the company, such as sales, accounts receivable, human resources, events coordinator and marketing. Adventure seeking, travel lover, farm girl at heart, and driven by opportunities to learn and grow personally and professionally, she is honoured to have the opportunity to be a part of the Directors team with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.

Craig Toews

Vice President
University of the Fraser Valley

Craig Toews is the  Vice President External at the University of the Fraser Valley. Craig has been with UFV for 30 years and brings extensive experience and a deep understanding of the post-secondary environment and the Fraser Valley to his leadership role. Responsible for fostering the UFV brand and heading up key areas including government/community/corporate relations, he also oversees community engagement, alumni relations, communications, marketing, business development, fundraising, and property development for the university.

Involved in many initiatives in the Fraser Valley, Toews is passionate about community engagement and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship across the region. He serves on numerous committees and boards across the Fraser Valley.

Katie Yu

Treasurer
RBC Royal Bank

In her current role as Vice President, Commercial Financial Services, Katie leads RBC Commercial Banking in the Fraser Valley & Langley region.

By working collaboratively with Commercial and Personal Banking leaders as well as a robust business network, Katie and her team of advisors builds and executes a market strategy that supports aspired entrepreneurs and established businesses by delivering relevant advice, solutions and value beyond banking.

Prior to her current role, Katie led Commercial Mortgages in British Columbia to promote and deliver commercial real estate financing solutions as part of RBC’s national specialized solutions.

Katie has a passion for mentoring youth and supporting Canadian importers/exporters. She firmly believes community work is an essential and rewarding aspect of one’s life. A strong advocate for women entrepreneurs, Katie works closely with several partnerships including She EO and Women of Influence. She has been a long-time Committee Member for Association of Women in Finance (“AWF”) in addition to her efforts in mentoring youth and graduate students through her affiliation to UBC Sauder School of Business. In 2019, Katie has had the privilege of working with BC Children’s Hospital as a Regional Champion representing RBC Commercial Banking for the 2019 fundraising campaign.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in applied sciences from Simon Fraser University and a master’s degree in business administration (“MBA”) from Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, in addition to her Personal Financing Planner designation. In her spare time, Katie enjoys travel, a good book, and cooking for her family and friends.

Chris Gauthier

Secretary
Memento Mori Studios Inc.

Chris is the President of Memento Mori Studios Inc., a Professional tattoo, piercing, body jewelry, laser removal & retail studio in Abbotsford, British Columbia. In his early twenties, Chris took a position as a retail store manager for a large cellular communications company and over the next 10 years worked his way up through the corporation, winning ‘Manager of the Year’ in 2009.

In 2011, he utilized the skills he had developed to open his own business with his wife and has enjoyed rapid growth over the past 6 years, now employing 15 people.

As a local business owner, Chris has organized many successful fundraising events including the annual Anchor August event where his studio does anchor tattoos and this year raised $5600 for the Abbotsford Food Bank in just 4 hours.

As an animal lover, Chris also works closely with an organization called ‘Rescue a Boxer’ that finds forever homes for Boxer dogs from shelters in the US. He and his wife adopt senior boxers and ensure they enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Kevin Mierau

Director
Mierau Contractors Ltd.

Kevin is the President of Mierau Contractors Ltd and continues the operations of the successful Abbotsford based company that his father Larry Mierau founded in 1970. Kevin graduated from Abbotsford Senior Secondary in 1993 then completed his Red Seal Certification in Carpentry in 1996.

Kevin is actively involved in the construction industry and serves on the Board of Directors at the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, BC Construction Association and the BC Construction Safety Alliance. He is looking forward to the possibility of working with the Chamber of Commerce and continues his participation within the Abbotsford community.

Kevin and his wife live in Abbotsford and have two girls who attend MEI Middle and High School.

Karen Biggs

Director
Menno Place

Karen L. Biggs is the Chief Executive Officer of Menno Place, a campus of care that serves more than 700 seniors with a staff of 600. Karen has more than 37 year’s experience in geriatric care. She is currently President of BC Care Providers. In 2015, Karen received the Chapter Award for Distinguished Service for the Canadian College of Health Leaders, BC Lower Mainland Chapter. She was awarded the prestigious Surrey Woman in Business Award in the Professional Category in 2011.

Karen has been a surveyor with Accreditation Canada since 2005. She chaired the Vancouver Community College Continuing Care Program Advisory Committee for 16 years. Karen holds a Masters of Health Administration; a Fellow in Health Administration (with distinction); a Certified Health Executive designation (CCHL) and is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Karen believes strongly in lifelong learning, faith-based service and in volunteering as an educational consultant, preceptor, and mentor.

Mike Ashcroft

Director
Cascade Aerospace Inc.

Mike is the Senior Director of Supply Chain and Facilities at Cascade Aerospace Inc.  After earning his Computer Engineering degree at the Royal Military College of Canada in 1987, Mike served 27 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as an Aerospace Engineer and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Mike joined Cascade in 2010 and moved to Abbotsford in 2011 as the Business Manager for Cascade’s RCAF contract.  As the Senior Director of Supply Chain and Facilities, Mike is currently responsible for the management of all material and services required by Cascade and the maintenance of the Cascade hangar and tooling.  Mike and his team believe in using local and Canadian companies to the extent possible, and employ the services of over 150 local companies spending approximately $1M annually in the Fraser Valley on aerospace parts manufacturing, aerospace support services, parts procurement, shipping, storage, and facilities maintenance.

Mike is a two time Olympian (1988 in Korea and 1992 in Spain) and an active member of the community.  He coached his daughter’s Fraser Valley midget minor hockey team, and with the Phoenix Velo Training Group he was a member of the board and still coaches youth cycling.  Mike is recognized for how much he cares about the people he works with and for his ability to inspire people to excel.

Tim Holloway

Director
KPMG

Tim is managing partner of KPMG’s Abbotsford office.  Tim specializes in serving family owned businesses as well as leading KPMG’s charity and not-for-profit practice in the Fraser Valley leveraging 17 years of experience to provide clients with quality and timely assurance, tax and advisory services.  He holds a bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia (2000) and obtained his CPA, CA designation in 2003.

Tim and his wife Whitney live in Abbotsford with their three young boys with the next addition joining their busy team shortly.  Tim is active in their local church serving on the board and as Treasurer.

The prospect of joining the board of Abbotsford’s Chamber of Commerce is an exciting opportunity. Tim would like to leverage his experience to help businesses in Abbotsford grow and thrive.

Sam Varing

Director
Baker Newby LLP

Sam Varing is a business lawyer with Baker Newby LLP. She is deeply rooted in the Abbotsford community and aspires to grow her practice as a pragmatic, solution-driven lawyer for large scale businesses throughout the Lower Mainland.

She is actively involved with the Abbotsford Chamber as an appointed member of the Government Affairs Committee and an executive member of the Company of Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs.  While earning her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of the Fraser Valley, Sam held a student membership with the Abbotsford Chamber.  It was during this time that Sam realized the enormous potential and impact the Chamber has in the Abbotsford community.

On a more personal note, Sam was raised in a family of entrepreneurs.  As such, she developed a strong belief that foundational business and entrepreneurial principles are essential for today’s youth.  This led her to volunteer with Junior Achievement of British Columbia (JABC) to bring more volunteer-oriented and business-focused educational programs to Abbotsford schools.  It is a part of JABC’s mission to enrich, engage and inspire the new generation of young leaders. Currently, Sam is working on a collaboration between UFV, the Abbotsford School District and JABC to develop JABC’s presence in Abbotsford and to deliver a greater number of programs to our high school students.

 

Josh Reynolds

Director
Illustrate Collective

In his current role as Assistant Marketing and Nonprofit Leadership Director at Summit Pacific College, he has ensured the continual increase of operations efficiency and growth while retaining an unwavering attention to the college’s core values, mission and objectives. He joined Summit Pacific College at a pivotal time and was entrusted with developing material for and leading 3 – 4 college courses each year, focused on business administration, nonprofit leadership, and strategic Planning. He has also been tasked with coordinating communications with all stakeholder groups of the college, including donors, students and recruits. Thus with a career history steeped in the marriage of education and organization leadership, he is immersed in the trends shaping the industry – a hallmark feature of a strong director.

Prior to joining Summit Pacific College, he founded Illustrate Collective, an agency specializing in digital design, strategic marketing, and political consulting. As an adept executive director, He devises and implements digital strategies for organizations throughout the province, across varying sectors. The results of his leadership have earned repeated commendation from clients and resulted in continual revenue growth over the past four years. Recently, he led my company through and expansion into political consulting and has overseen a significant portion of digital marketing in recent elections within the Abbotsford region, for candidates across the political spectrum.

Tammy McLachlan

Director
Canadian Western Bank

Tammy was born and raised in Abbotsford on her family farm on McKenzie Road. She and her husband have been married for 27 years; and have 2 teenage boys, 1 dog, 1 cat, 6 Silkie chickens and still live on the farm she was raised on.

She has worked in the financial services industry for the past 30 years holding numerous positions starting on the teller line to my current role as Manager of Retail Banking with Canadian Western Bank. Her passion is people. She inspires to build up, support and engage in every interaction she has whether it be at work, in the community or with friends. She believes that true leaders do not create followers they create more leaders.

Many of the boards she has served on has been of personal interest to her such as:
ADBA: Revitalized the downtown core she used to visit as a child – United against SE2.
Hospice: Being present during a time of need, active listening, visitation, support without judgement
Matthew’s House: Created a place where families can receive support for children with disabilities, without cost, while they recharge and reconnect as a family.
Abbotsford Falcons Football: She joined the executive as Secretary to do her part in volunteering in Community events.

Paul Penner

Director
RE/MAX Little Oak Realty (Abbotsford)

Paul has a long history of customer service and leadership in the community. As a former owner of a successful retail business and as a Realtor for 30+ years he understands the importance of remaining competitive. Investment dollars are fluid and Abbotsford must be an attractive jurisdiction for investment and an attractive place to live.

Having represented numerous families and business owners Paul knows the importance of balancing the needs of residents with the needs of commerce within our community.

Ravi Sidhu

Director
TELUS

Ravi is the Senior Regional Marketing Manager with TELUS and has been working in marketing and digital media for the last 10+ years.

Ravi sits as Director with the Abbotsford Police Foundation and the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association. Along with volunteering his time with these boards Ravi also coaches Senior Boys Basketball at Robert Bateman Secondary where he has been coaching for three seasons.

He has lived in Abbotsford for 35 years and attended Rick Hansen Secondary School graduating in 2002 and then completing his Bachelor of Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Ravi is always looking to give back to his community where he was raised by encouraging and inspiring our community to achieve more.