Santa’s sleigh bells rang through Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Fort Fraser last week, as three local groups received a timely boost to continue supporting seniors and small community recreation.
On location from Dec. 6 to 7, Vanderhoof and Districts Co-op presented donations to Nechako View Senior Citizens Housing Society, Autumn Services – Society for Senior Support, and Fort Fraser Community Recreation Society.
Eleven community organizations in Co-op’s trading district, which extends east to Valemount, west to Terrace, south to Quesnel, and north to Fort St. James, received $100,000 of funding in total from its new Community Support Fund.
Reviewing past programs during the annual budget process, Co-op created the new fund by combining them in order to make a bigger difference to the community, said general manager Allan Bieganski.
“We wanted to give back to the community we operate and make sure our communities are thriving places to be,” Bieganski said. The intention is to have the Community Support Fund available for local groups every fall.
“All of us at Vanderhoof and Districts Co-op are proud to be able to support initiatives that support and improve the quality of life in our communities,” said Bud Pye, president of the board of directors of Vanderhoof and Districts Co-op. “When you support organizations and groups that support their communities, everyone benefits.”
New low-cost self-care senior housing to come in downtown Vanderhoof
For Vanderhoof’s Nechako View Senior Citizens Housing Society, the contribution from Co-op allows the group to prepare the land for its low-cost independent senior housing project on Burrard Avenue by Douglas Street.
“The Nechako View board is very excited and appreciative of this $5,000 donation that allows us to take the very important first step in creating 14 new affordable seniors housing units,” said Len Fox, the society’s president. “The total cost of this project, when completed, will be $1.7 million.”
Situated close to downtown and with a central common area for residents to meet and socialize, the new housing complex will include seven single-bedroom and seven two-bedroom units, all with ground-level entrances.
“The shortage of senior beds for the assisted living and extended care in our community has put extra pressure for self-care needs,” Fox said. The society’s existing 35-unit complex on Northside Road for independently-living seniors currently has a waitlist of 45. “If the waitlist continues to grow, we’ll be looking at different initiatives.”
The new units will help to support the local economy, providing housing for seniors that come from surrounding communities and look at Vanderhoof for independent living. “Seniors spend all their money locally, towards food and good healthcare,” Fox said.
At its early stages of planning, the project will have more funding updates next spring, as the society looks for support from local organizations as well as provincial and federal governments.
“[The Nechako View complex] came together as a community effort, built by volunteers in labour and contributions from local companies and foundations,” Fox said. “We’re looking to do the same for this initiative.”
Improving Fraser Lake’s seniors’ quality of life
With Co-op’s contribution of $10,000, Autumn Services will be expanding their weekly soup program for seniors and Food Share program for the low-income population in Fraser Lake.
“We are honoured to receive funding from Vanderhoof and Districts Co-operation Association that will enable us at Autumn Services to make long-term sustainable services available to the community,” said the society’s coordinator Elaine Storey. By gathering seniors together for food and socialization at least once a week, the program helps to improve mental and physical health of seniors who may be otherwise isolated.
The Food Share program, started this summer when Fraser Lake’s sole grocery store closed, has helped feed up to 10 struggling families in a week.
“Whether people are coming in for social interactions, or because they have a need for food, gotten into financial trouble, retired and needed new glasses, dentures or medication and couldn’t make ends meet that month, are a single parent, have a disability, or dealing with abuse or mental illness, it makes no difference,” said Sarrah Storey of Autumn Services. “We have no clue what has happened to them to get them to this point and there is no judgment, as everyone is helped if asked.
“No one has a right to judge another human being who is just trying to survive.
“We are helping to keep people out of the medical system, we are providing much needed support and we are doing our best to make our area and community stronger.”
Fort Fraser gets community recreation support
In the 500-person strong community between Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake, Co-op’s $4,500 donation will provide its community recreation society with a home, expand its programs, and preserve its heritage.
Previously hosting its activities in the Fort Fraser community hall, the funding allowed the society to take over a property on Highway 16 east of the post office on Empire Street. Previously the home of the local ambulance services, the property now includes playground equipment from the now-closed Fort Fraser Elementary-Secondary School and a CN Rail caboose.
“We are very thankful for Co-op to support us,” said society president Colleen DeLong. “We operate everything here by fundraising; it’s a very good start to what we were doing this summer.”
At its new home, the society hosted an tourist information booth and ice cream stand at the historical caboose this summer. A barn house on the property was also turned into a museum that displayed the community’s 210 years of history.