By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke has a hard-earned reputation for being a progressive community that knows how to ‘get things done.’
That’s a label most often slapped on it in the news media because the community has instituted and supported things like the Revitalization Programs, the Aquatic Centre, the Visual Arts Centre and new schools and Performing Arts Centre. But while all of that may be true, much of what truly makes us progressive and able to accomplish great things starts out small, with things like the Thrift Store, Thursday night bingo games and the folks who tend bar at community events.
Take the Revelstoke Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store, for instance. That small second-hand — even third- or fourth-hand — shop on Second Street is a popular place if you want 25-cent dishes, $2 lamps and cheap, cheap clothes and bedding. But all those small sales add up to some pretty big bucks.
Here’s a list of what they gave back to the community in 2013:
Donations made in 2013
|City of Revelstoke – Bench for Joan Adair||$75|
|Habitat for Humanity||$105|
|Community Connections Formula Fund||$1,000|
|Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life||$2,000|
|Revelstoke OPT Clinic||#2,000|
|Revelstoke Seniors Association||$2,000|
|Revelstoke Community Foundation||$2,005|
|Revelstoke & District Health Foundation||$2,250|
|Community Connections Food Bank||$12,000|
Equipment purchased in 2013
|Mount Cartier Court||$2,997.41|
|Queen Victoria Hospital||$140,965.64|
|Revelstoke Highway Rescue||$17,831.58|
That’s not too shabby, is it? Thrift Store Manager Sheila Combs notes that all of this accomplished with a handful of aging volunteers who are, on average in their 70s.
They don’t just man the counter and slap price tags on things. These men and women have to haul this stuff around and some of it is heavy — like the bed frames, desks and other furniture items that are dropped off. These senior citizens also have to deal with the garbage, broken crap and dirty clothes and bedding that selfish, thoughtless people dump at their front door because they are too lazy to take them to the dump themselves.
“We don’t want anyone’s dirty, broken stuff — take it to the dump!” she said in an interview. “We also don’t want your old TVs and computers! Take ’em to the dump!”
And then there are the thefts of bicycles, clothing and even large pieces of furniture like dressers that people always seem to want. It’s difficult to imagine how someone can steal from Thrift Store, but somehow they do.
The Knights of Pythias is another one of the cogs that makes the machinery of life in Revelstoke run smoothly.
The Pythian Order was founded in 1864 and is based on the Greek legend Damon and Pythias. The local Pythian order, called Gold Range Lodge No. 26, was founded 1899 and boasted a membership of over 150 men. Today it has about 45 members “who like to help people/families in the time of need, expecting nothing in return,” says Kevin Coulter, the lodge’s Grand Chancellor, adding that there are two Pythian groups in Revelstoke, the Knights of Pythias and the Dramatic Order Knights of Khorrassan, commonly referred to as the DOKKies.
“Gold Range Lodge has been running a local bingo (held every Thursday evening at the Community Centre) for well over 45 years and have been donating the proceeds back to organizations, people, families, sports groups, bursaries, individuals requiring medical assistance or medical equipment, food hamper, Boy Scouts/Girl Guides, heart and stroke, cancer support group, Lake Revelstoke Dragon Boat cancer survivors and the list goes on,” Coulter said. “We average $25,000 each year back into the community from the proceeds from our weekly bingos. The Pythian Order strives to bring Friendship, Charity and Benevolence to our fellow men.”
The Rotary Club is one of the best-known organizations in town. Asked about what Rotary does for the community — and communities elsewhere on the planet through Rotary International — Club President Graham Harper provided The Current with the following update on its activities:
- 68 hours of community service for the likes of Canada Day and Christmas parade marshalling, Roller Derby security, re-painting the Gazebo at Railway Museum for Railway Days;
- $1,555 for the Community Connections Food Bank;
- $250 Trees for Tots;
- We sent $2,370 to Shelterbox Canada for the Philippines Hurricane disaster. Shelterbox is a Rotary International initiative that sends out emergency shelter, warmth and dignity in a box http://www.shelterboxcanada.org/;
- $500 to the Philippines Rotary district that was affected by the earthquake;
- $350 (so far this winter – approx. $2,500 in total) to the Revelstoke Adaptive Sports program, which is a Rotary- and Live-It-Love-It Foundation-initiated program started back in 2012;
- $5,000 to the Habitat for Humanity project assisting the Hunt family;
- $5,000 to a school in an impoverished community in India; and
- $4,000 donated to the City Of Revelstoke to assist in purchasing the community stage.
“Some of our fundraising comes from our tent rentals, but likewise we donate various tents rentals to community events,” Graham said.
“We donate our sound system for the annual Remembrance Day ceremony. We hold numerous fundraisers in the community to fund the above e.g. pancake breakfasts on the opening and closing days at RMR, various bar events, Cornucopia, etc. This year we have also taken over the Citizen Of The Year from the Lions Club. We support the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Local student Jacob Wallach is currently spending his year in Germany, while we have Lucas from Brazil in return.
“In February every year we bring he youth exchange students from all over our district (about 75 of them) to have a fun weekend in our town. Students are from all over the world and some of them have never experienced snow.
“Every year we also sponsor a lucky local student and send them — all expenses paid — to Ottawa for the Rotary Club of Ottawa’s Adventure in Citizenship Program, which celebrated its 63rd anniversary in 2013 when 220 outstanding senior high school students from across Canada, spent four days in Ottawa. The program is designed to develop the participants’ potential as leaders in their communities and in Canadian society.”
The club also sponsors two bursaries for graduating RSS students and an award at the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Excellence dinner.
He also noted that over the years the club has been a major supporter of community projects such as floating dock Williamsons Lake, the original Highway Rescue Truck, the Hospice Society, the Red Cross, Crime Stoppers and other programs.
This is a local service organization that is probably most visible when someone needs bar-tending service at a public event.
“The Elks have been here since 1960 and currently have 23 members,” says local Club President George Hopkins.
The Elks have for years provided bar-tending services and, until they were discontinued by the Royal Canadian Mint last year, penny drives as well as raffles and other fund-raising devices.
“We really focus our efforts on children’s programs and… we like to help kids who have medical problems and their families.”
The Beta Sigma Phi sorority is one of the lesser-known groups in town and is composed entirely of women.
“We are a group of women, a sisterhood of friendship and learning, with the mandate of giving of ourselves back to our community,” says member Donna Lecompte. “The value of our sorority work is priceless because it comes from the heart, and we try to make our home town an even better place to live by doing just that.
“Special fundraisers over the years were: hosting and cooking a community dinner for the son of one of our own that was severely injured in a diving accident; organizing and implementing the Angel of Hope for all missing children in Brianne Wolgram’s name; bringing a magic show to town that raised a large donation for the Trees for Tots; and hosting BBQs and pancake breakfasts for various organizations. Among others, donations were made to the Women’s Shelter, Rescue Truck, Food Bank, the Humane Society, Multiple Sclerosis, SIDS Foundation, Children’s Variety Club, and singing for the seniors at Moberly Manor and bringing them Christmas baskets. Internationally we adopted a child and cared for her until she came of age.”
There are many other much smaller groups in town, like the indefatigable Team Gloria that serves up food and fun at public events and stages terrific spring and Halloween dances to raise money for cancer research and the food bank. Wayne Murray says the tiny group has six hard-core members who raise between $15,000 and $20,000 a year. That’s a mighty contribution towards keeping Revelstoke a compassionate, progressive and livable community.
I can’t list all of the community’s groups in this not-so-short story but I can say almost every group in town labours under the same cloud: they need members and volunteers, especially younger ones.
Service club members fall between 60 and 70 years of age and are slowing down. All of the people interviewed for this story recognize that young people in their 20s and 30s are, for one reason or another generally not interested in volunteering their efforts on a long-term basis. But what about men and women in their 40s and 50s?
If you are young, or quasi-young, and enjoy life in our community please think about giving back with your time and membership by joining one of the groups that make a difference in our community. If you think you have something to contribute to one of the organizations mentioned in this story please contact:
Sheila Combs, manager of the Revelstoke Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store, at email@example.com;
Kevin Coulter, Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, at firstname.lastname@example.org;
Graham Harper, Rotary Club president, at Graham Harper email@example.com;
Donna Lecompte, Beta Sigma Phi, at firstname.lastname@example.org;
Wayne Murray, of Team Gloria, at 250-814-9815 or 250-837-008 and tiny tim email@example.com; and
George Hopkins, president of the local Elks club, at firstname.lastname@example.org.