Humble people are often the most generous people, their quiet reach can weave a community together in ways that might surprise some.
It’s those qualities – unassuming and ongoing support of local charitable causes – that has the Fruitvale Community Chest being named the 2017 Beaver Valley Citizen of the Year.
“We could not have chosen a more deserving group,” said Grace Terness, on behalf of the selection committee. “Within this society there are many individuals, past and present, who would be eligible for this award in their own right. By choosing the Fruitvale Community Chest we are recognizing each and every individual for their community involvement and dedication.”
All are welcome to the public ceremony slated for Friday at 7 p.m. in the Beaver Valley curling rink. The event kicks off Beaver Valley May Days with flare, following the public reception, fireworks will light up the sky.
Terness encourages everyone, including past recipients, to come and pay homage to Fruitvale Community Chest volunteers.
She added, “Please come out and extend your thanks to this organization for the support given to so many over the years.”
There is a modest twist to this story, however.
Initially, the group’s long serving president Douglas Hall and his wife Barbara Hall were selected as this year’s recipients.
When Terness contacted the Halls, they had one self-effacing request.
The couple has volunteered for the charity since the 80s, but so have many others.
“When they were called and advised of the award, they suggested that it would be wonderful if the Community Chest as a whole could be recognized as there were many other long-term directors just as deserving,” Terness shared. “So, again this year, we are recognizing another Beaver Valley organization.”
The group’s annual fundraising goal is $25,000, half of which supports the Fruitvale food bank and 100-plus Christmas hampers distributed throughout the Beaver Valley.
Besides helping their immediate neighbours, the group has long supported regional causes such as the health foundation at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, the Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Air Cadets, Sanctuary Pre-Teen Centre and each June, they provide a graduate with a JL Crowe Citizen Scholarship. The group also supports the sickest children in the province with donations to BC Children’s Hospital.
That’s just naming a few of their goodwill ventures, because over the years, the list keeps getting longer.
“I just represent the whole Village of Fruitvale and Montrose,” said Doug, mentioning other long term directors, including Charles LeComte, a 43-year volunteer and Mary Ann Pengelly, a member since 1988. “It’s a community-type thing, there is a long list of people that help us … and we try to give to organizations that are used by the community.”
Historically, the Community Chest was kept afloat by Cominco employees (payroll deductions were matched by Cominco), donations made through door-to-door canvassing, and contributions from local service clubs, businesses, and churches.
The Community Chest has experienced what many other local and national charities report – the need is still there and growing, but money is becoming more difficult to raise.
That’s what has kept Doug a leading driver since 1984 – he does not want to see the organization fall by the wayside.
And it’s been community hands that have kept the Community Chest going strong.
These days, Beaver Valley Recreation hosts Breakfast with Santa on behalf of the group, Liberty Foods provides $10 bags of groceries for citizens to purchase for Christmas hampers with leftovers going to the food bank, and people still give what they can when Community Chest volunteers come knocking.
At one time, the group provided Christmas hampers only to those on social assistance. With so many families scraping by paycheque to paycheque, Doug says the group has expanded its reach.
“We’ve opened it up a bit more to try and help people that are working but just getting by,” he shared. “So we’ve gone from 35 hampers up to 120 … what we do is coordinate our list with the Fruitvale United Church food bank, plus we have people that are nominated by someone who knows someone in need, or we have some who phone in (and ask) who aren’t on the food bank list,” he added. “We aren’t an organization or anything, we don’t check on people – if someone phones us up and needs help, I put them on the list.”