Brother Glen Hillier says with time passing and still no answers, thoughts of his sister plague his mind now more than ever.
“We need something now, we definitely need something now,” said Hillier.
Following last month’s bingo fundraiser, which raised $22,500 to help with search efforts, the first scheduled volunteer ground search went ahead Aug. 19.
The search involved around 25 volunteers and focused on four off-road areas – the Bight road, Cremaillere, Deer Park, and Hydro road.
Despite a full day of searching through woods, bushes, and even ponds, the effort did not turn up any sign of Hillier-Penney.
It was the first of several searches being planned by the Hillier family and the Jennifer Search Committee, which include plans for both ground and water searches across the terrains of the Northern Peninsula.
With so much ground to cover, it is a daunting task to search as much as they can before the natural elements begin to work against them.
“We have lots of ground to cover and this was just the beginning of future searches,” said search committee member Gina Elliott. “We will search until the weather won’t allow us to search anymore.”
Glen Hillier says work to organize these searches has been ongoing by the family for the past few weeks. When planning was finalized last Wednesday evening, the search effort was announced to the Jennifer’s Search Facebook group Thursday.
“We had to notify and confirm with RCMP, fire brigades, hospital paramedics and keep them on stand by,” said Hillier. “You got to have all I’s dotted and all T’s crossed with this stuff.”
Hillier-Penney was last seen on Nov. 30, 2016. She vanished from town leaving behind her purse, passport, phone, keys and even shoes behind.
With three other missing persons cases in the town of St. Anthony remaining unsolved to this day, the thought of his sister weighs heavy on Hillier.
“I’m glad sometimes to be busy at work because it gives your mind a little bit of a break,” he said. “But as soon as you slow down, it goes right back to where it was.”
The next search has yet to be announced, but Elliot says several different areas have been chosen. A major water search is also in the developing stages.
“We don’t want to announce publicly those areas we want to search for obvious reasons,” said Elliot. “If groups or individuals want to search an area outside of scheduled searches, they can contact our [Facebook] page and we can assign a location.”
Hillier says the plan is to start searches close to town and work further and further out if need be.
“You don’t know, she could be right under our noses,” he said. “For someone to vanish in such a small town - the thing everybody says is, ‘somebody knows something.’ That’s the exact words that everybody uses.
“And once we can get that first question answered, then the others will start unfolding.”
Knowing how suddenly snow can come, the group plans to announce the next volunteer search in the immediate future. Anyone looking to get further involved can reach out through the “Jennifer’s Search” Facebook page.
“We are really grateful for the community of support,” said Elliot. “Jennifer would be proud.”