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Jasper Treasures: Jenna McGrath

Jenna McGrath is a local entrepreneur and a municipal councillor for Jasper. | File photo

Peter Shokeir | editor@fithzugh.ca

Balance is key for Jenna McGrath as she runs her two businesses, homeschools her children, acts as a birth doula and serves on Jasper’s municipal council.

McGrath was born in 1984 to Patricia and Jim Gubbins and spent all of her childhood in Hamilton, Ont.

“I lived a pretty plain Jane, city lifestyle with shared custody between parents and a pretty average upbringing,” she said.

McGrath became interested in health and wellness while co-oping at a fitness centre during high school.

She also experienced injuries herself due to exercising and was under the care of a kinesiologist along with a physiotherapist and massage therapist.

After high school, McGrath went to Canadian Therapeutic College where she took a three-year double diploma program for sports injury therapy and massage therapy.

She then completed her board exams and flew to Alberta in order to begin her career in Fort McMurray upon the invitation of her sister, who told her how comparatively easy it was to get a job or start a business out west.

“As soon as I arrived in Fort McMurray within a week, I had set up my own business and explored all of the options within my profession in the whole city that there was to know,” McGrath said.

“Within about seven weeks, I was fully booked with massages.”

McGrath described Fort McMurray as a great place to jump-start her career, pay off some student debt and “get her hands wet” in the industry.

“It was an interesting approach to living because most of my clients were so work-focused that often they would miss their massages, and the infrastructure of Fort McMurray was different then, so you could have a whole day of no-shows because there was an accident on the highway,” she said.

She also met her husband Sean in Fort McMurray, and they got married at Pyramid Lake as tourists in July 2008, going on a honeymoon to Newfoundland where Sean is from, and later decided to move to Jasper that September for both a change of scenery and lifestyle.

“Together, in the infancy of our relationship, we started to better recognize what our values were and how money wasn’t one of them,” McGrath said.

“If we wanted days off or to go snowboarding or to go anywhere for a respite and for adventure, Jasper was the closest destination.”

Her sights had been set on Jasper since her first trip to the mountain town, describing her “instant connection with the people and feel and the vibrancy of the community.”

During that trip, McGrath recalled how she had pulled over to give her mother a call and tell her, “Mom, you’re going to be visiting your grandchildren in Jasper, Alberta.”

The couple currently have two children together: nine-year-old Molleigh and seven-year-old Finian.

McGrath credited her husband’s optimism for finding a basement apartment in Jasper right away, and they continued to move year after year when something better came up.

She initially worked at Spooners Café, which no longer exists, and massaged for what was then Insignia Salon & Spa at the Jasper Park Lodge, later becoming an outreach worker for the Municipality of Jasper.

Eight years after arriving, McGrath started her own Jasper business as the opportunity for self-employment presented itself and her family needed the flexibility.

“I made the leap to leasing a space in downtown at that time in 2016 and my husband developed the space and created us a wellness centre,” she said.

Jasper Wellness offers personalized services, including yoga, massage therapy, meditation and other wellness services.

McGrath is also a birth doula – essentially a labour coach – and as of 2020 has assisted 47 families in Jasper and Hinton with welcoming their infants.

She had gone through a pregnancy loss in 2010, and during that experience, a nurse had complimented her on her good breathing.

“That window of someone offering me praise during a time that would have otherwise been really difficult kind of left me more or less with motivation to help others and has inspired me to try to make as big of an impact in the women that I’m around, birthing their babies and offering them all of the support that I humanly could offer them,” McGrath said.

Her services as a doula include offering advice, giving massages and helping the labouring woman and her partner.

She has also organized a pregnancy loss support group in Jasper.

Along with Jasper Wellness, McGrath operates Fleur Cannabis Boutique, which started in 2019 and was the first cannabis boutique not just in Jasper but in any Canadian national park.

“I’ve been interested in the cannabis field as a wellness professional for years, seeing the impacts and effects it has on others’ lives,” she said.

In 2017, McGrath was elected to Jasper Municipal Council for the first time.

“I would have never considered myself a politician and probably still don’t,” she said.

“I don’t consider myself very political and I don’t consider myself a politician. I consider myself a highly invested community member.”

Just before the election, McGrath’s home was being transformed from a rental to a condominium, which she couldn’t afford at the time.

“It left me feeling like there was vulnerability in our community, (how) that could happen without public consultation,” she said.

“So, when I started looking into the zoning and when I started looking into land use, it struck me as something that I didn’t necessarily have anyone to go to and that I didn’t have relationships with anyone on council at the time, and I really felt like the families and the lower-income residents didn’t have as much of a representative at the table as could be.

“And instead of looking for the current council to represent me, I decided to represent myself and the rest of our community.”

McGrath described her first term on council as a learning experience, especially since the role of a councillor has taken on an added importance during these troubled times when council has to deal with COVID-19 on top of the day-to-day matters.

“It’s been really interesting, but it’s been a pleasure to serve in this way, and I feel like it’s a great opportunity that I’m really, really grateful for,” she added.

Her recent venture into homeschooling was prompted by not only COVID but also out of a desire to contribute to smaller class sizes for those who can’t homeschool their children.

The couple are still discussing if they want to continue homeschooling after the pandemic is declared over.

“We have yet to decide what our direction will be in the future because it’s been such a great experience,” McGrath said.

With such a busy schedule, McGrath emphasized that “balance is key.”

“There’s been more balance necessary, so prioritization of time and time management is really important in my life,” she said.

“I have an amazingly supportive husband and I also have a mother-in-law who lives with us, so I feel really well supported in my life for my ability to juggle.”

During the pandemic, her primary focus has been on her family, followed by her role on council, while she manages her cannabis business part-time with the help of her husband.

“More or less, my Jasper Wellness business has been hardest hit from COVID for sure and is the business that I work at less these days,” McGrath said.

“I teach yoga online as much as I can, as much as the balance allows me to, and I massage just a few hours a week these days versus I used to massage much more.”

Her favourite aspect of Jasper is the access to the outdoors, as she and her family enjoy skiing and mountain biking, and the overall vibrancy of the community.

“I feel like I am my best self in Jasper.”

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