Who We Are

Mother and Child - Talitha Koum Society

Our Story

In 2000, the Talitha Koum Society was founded by Starr Peardon, but the journey to starting the recovery home for women stretched back to when Peardon was serving time in prison and battling addiction. When she was at a particularly low point, the prison chaplain offered to pray for her. After his prayer, Peardon was filled with a deep peace and knew she was going to be alright.

Peardon was passionate about helping other women overcome their addictions and “loving them back to living” as she liked to say. For years, she prayed about her dream of running a recovery home and would often talk about it with others.

In 1999, a priest donated $10,000 so Peardon could rent a house and launch her recovery home. One year later, the independent society was founded. Peardon chose the Aramaic phrase “Talitha Koum,” for its English meaning, “little girl, rise up,” as said by Jesus in the book of Mark when he brought a young girl back to life. This perfectly encapsulates Talitha Koum’s mission to help clients rise up and break the cycle of addictions to live a renewed life.

The spiritual house of healing offers 12-step addiction-recovery programming, life-skills training, counselling and arts and crafts. Talitha Koum also permits clients to live with their young children, something many recovery homes cannot accommodate.

Mother and Child - Talitha Koum Society

Today’s Leadership

Meet the Board of Directors

Mary O'Neill


An educator for four decades, Mary has worked as a teacher, counsellor, vice-principal, and principal with the Coquitlam School District, concluding her career as the principal of Dr. Charles Best Secondary School. After retiring in 2014, Mary worked intermittently on a contract basis with the school district and was an Associate Faculty in the MEd School Counselling Program at City University of Seattle (Vancouver campus).

Sylvia Wallis

Vice President

Sylvia has worked in the social service field for 35 years, supporting youth, children and families. Sylvia has volunteered in programs supporting women and children and has been a foster parent to children and youth with special needs. She has lived in the Tri-Cities area her entire life. She is the mother of adult children and a grandmother of two.

Maria Tanaka


Maria has been providing accounting and bookkeeping services since 1981. She served on the Parish Education Committee of Our Lady of Fatima School in Coquitlam for 10 years. She is on the board of the Festival Coquitlam Society and has been for 15 years. Presently, she is on the executive board of St. Clare of Assisi Parish Finance committee and the Catholic Women’s League council where she has served at the parish and the diocesan levels.

Jessica Spraggs


Jessica is a lawyer who has been providing legal services at a law firm in the Tri-Cities for over 10 years. As Chief Administrative Officer of the firm, she puts her Master of Business Administration to good use. Jessica also works as a part-time instructor at Trinity Western University where she teaches business law in the School of Business. While her work brings her great fulfillment, she finds true joy in parenting her four children.

Sister Denece Billesberger, Sej.


Sister Denece has been a pillar of the society from its inception. As a retired teacher and guidance counsellor, she previously helped with programming at Talitha Koum and is now our top volunteer driver. The Sisters of the Child Jesus, of whom she is a member, have a long association with the Maillardville (Coquitlam) community who have lived and served at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish for over 100 years.

Jaime Palmer-Hauge


Jaime brings a wealth of experience in healthcare, research, and administration. She is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology at Trinity Western University, where she has been teaching her students about relationships between the body and mind for 10 years. Prior to that she worked as an evaluator of public-health programming as well as a researcher for a national not-for-profit. Jaime has lived in the Tri-Cities since 2007. During this time, she has been involved in various community organizations, including her local minor hockey association. She enjoys spending time with her husband, four children, and yellow Labrador retriever.

Terry O’Neill


After an awarding-winning, 35-year career in journalism, Terry served two terms on Coquitlam City Council before retiring in 2018 to focus on people and projects closer to home and closer to his heart. He has been honoured for distinguished citizenship and humanitarianism by both the Canadian Red Cross Society and Canadian Blood Services. He is the founder of Blooms into Rooms: The Easter Flowers Project.

Meet Our Staff

Odo Nkum

Executive Director

Odo is the Executive Director of Talitha Koum Society. She has worked in the addictions and mental health field for over five years, mostly in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Prior to joining TK, she worked with the Canadian Mental Health Association (BC). Odo sees her work as a calling and is committed to supporting women to break the cycle of addiction and assume their God-given identity. Odo holds a Masters of Education in Leadership.

Kimmie Jensen

Program Director

Kimmie is not only a graduate of our program, but was handpicked by TK founder Starr Peardon to succeed her as the society’s executive director in 2012. A health issue forced Kimmie to leave TK in 2016, but she has now returned, explaining that she feels called to give back what was freely given to her, and that’s unconditional love.

We also have a full roster of passionate staff that are the backbone of Talitha Koum, including Diane McConnell, Kiana Riaz Kermani, Sr. Heather Charest, Maureen Bennie-Boakye, Sandra Foley, Ashley Zaworski, Helen Ritson, Serena Sewel, Sowmya Thangavelu, Constance Buabeng, Serenity Nicholson, Vera Yawson, and Rose Owusu. We are particularly proud of the fact that many program alumnae have returned to serve as program directors, facilitators, and support workers. Our alumnae’s involvement helps refine our program and ensure that it continues to be relevant and successful.