Category Archives: Community

Hedley Bottle Drive a Marathon Event

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The recent Hedley Bottle Drive was a marathon event requiring great mental tenacity and physical endurance. Twenty-one volunteers worked tirelessly in the blistering sun at the front of the Fire Hall or battled pitiless, marauding no-see-ums inside. Sponsored by the Hedley Grace Church, bottle drives have been staged for a number of years for the purpose of sending local children and youth to Camp Tulahead, located on Highway 5A. Usually they are held in both spring and fall, but last year the one in fall was cancelled. This was the reason for the intimidating mound of cans and bottles in front of the Fire Hall and for the longer sorting time.

“Some people in the community contribute bottles and cans throughout the year to support what we are doing,” Pastor Graham Gore said. “They consider it a worthy cause.”

Last year the church sent 14 children and teens to camp. The bottle drive doesn’t cover the full cost of $600 per child. “Contributions from people in the church make up the difference,” Pastor Gore said. “ Sometimes parents and others in the community also give money for this. We’ve never denied anyone the opportunity of going to camp.” To this time they have 9 registrations for this summer’s camp.

Pastor Gore expressed appreciation for the help of volunteers, some of whom are not connected to the church. Among those representing community organizations were Doug and TJ Bratt of the Community Club and the Country Market. They showed up with their son Jake and two grand daughters. Doug also brought 2 cases of pop. Beryl Wallace, president of the Seniors’ Centre and an attendee of the church came. Linda Martens, vice president of the Hedley Museum Society was there. Dave Peers, Fire Fighter and a Trustee of the Hedley Improvement District ,volunteered his time and energy. Angelique Wood, currently on leave from the fire department and the local, federal NDP candidate, also helped. Lynn McKay, a member of several organizations, worked tirelessly as in past years. Also Steve, a senior who just wanted to do something for the community. Six teens participated. Julie, who was on duty at the Country Market, paid for apples and bananas to give workers a boost of energy.

Doug Nimchuk, representing the Fire Department and the church, was event organizer. His duties kept him there from before 9 am until 7:00 pm. Peggy Terry, a church attendee, looks after the financial matters.

At the end of the bottle drive there were weary backs and sore feet. The thoughts and emotions though, were positive. One teen summed up what most volunteers were probably thinking when she said, “this is the most satisfying day I’ve had in a long time.” When people work together, good things get done.

MLA Linda Larson Visits Hedley

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Twenty local citizens showed up at the Hedley Seniors’ Center for a 7 am meeting with MLA Linda Larson last Thursday. Larson is Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health and Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. She arranged the gathering to talk about the government’s desire to make it possible for people to stay in their homes longer. “We tend to institutionalize people,” she noted. “That is very expensive. We need to shift our focus to enable people to live in their home and in their community as long as possible. Accessibility and home care will be important in making this happen.”

“If you are in a wheel chair, how many places in this community can you get into?” she asked. She named the Post Office as an example. “The Province is taking the position there is no need for steps. It’s important for a community to identify where there is a need for ramps.”

She believes strongly that it’s not right to strip someone of their independence when they lose their driver’s licence or when they fall. “It’s preferable to have someone come into the home to help with things like house cleaning and bathing. In some cases several disabled individuals could live in one house and be given the assistance they require.”

Larson’s 94 year old mother has lived with her and her husband for 12 years. She said at one time her mother was given medication that pretty much immobilized her. When this was remedied she returned to her normal alert state. The experience with her mother has given Larson an intimate understanding of the needs of frail elderly people.

She said the government will help people on social assistance obtain job training. This will include training as a Care Giver. The program starts in September and will help with transportation and child care. It will be available in Penticton. Monthly assistance cheques will continue during the program.

Margaret Skaar, a very active Hedley senior said, “We need Care Givers who live in our community. It would be helpful to have someone who would do yard work at low cost.” Lynn McKay mentioned that there are lonely people in Hedley. They need someone to visit and talk with them.

Larson had high praise for the Seniors’ Center and the unifying role it has in the community. “You are more likely to hear about someone who hasn’t seen a family member in 2 years, or hasn’t been to the bathroom for 3 days.”

She told the group that if there is an intractable issue, she’ll give it over to Patt Vermiere, who works in her office. “Patt knows the people in the system. She is very good at getting through to them.”

Larson finished by saying, “We are trying desperately to bring about change. There is resistance, but ensuring there are enough Care Givers to enable people to stay in their homes is top of the mind for me.”

Fire Fighters Car Wash A Success

“There were seven or eight cars lined up when we started,” Graham Gore, Manager of the Hedley Fire Department told me yesterday. “We washed about 20 cars and sold 40 to 50 hotdogs. Some people came just for the hot dogs. We made about $360, which will help with the operation of the Department. For us it’s also an opportunity to connect with the people of Hedley and build relationships.” He was talking about the Hedley Fire Fighter’s annual Victoria Day car wash and hot dog sale.

Graham Gore, Terry MacFarlane, Andy English, Simon Harris (left to right)
Graham Gore, Terry MacFarlane, Andy English, Simon Harris
(left to right)

In the evening the Fire Fighters and the Trustees of the Hedley Improvement District (H.I.D.) gathered for a barbeque at the home of Andy and Kim English.

Andy and Kim live across the street from Linda and me. I went over with my camera to get a photo record of the event. The buzz of animated conversation suggested there was a great sense of camaraderie. Simon Harris, a longterm fire fighter and easily the tallest man in the group said, “if any member was to have a problem, we’d all be there to help.” Graham Gore added to this. “If anyone in the community has a problem, we’ll all be there too.”

The Fire Fighters turn out for practise each Tuesday evening. All of Hedley becomes aware of this when the siren signals the start of practise at 7 p.m. They are volunteers, giving their time and energy to making our town safe. Fire Department Chief Terry MacFarlane said, “We’re always looking for new recruits. We have several women in the department now, and we would welcome more.”

The Fire Fighters receive a small honorarium for each practise they attend. For a community of about 250 people, the Fire Department is well trained and reasonably well equipped. It has several First Responders who attend to medical issues in town and also to accidents on the highway. We are fortunate to have such a group of individuals committed to protecting us and our properties.

Bike Polo Comes To Hedley

This past weekend Hedley again enthusiastically welcomed a

Reuben  at the grill
Reuben at the grill

contingent of bike polo players. When I showed up on Saturday to get a few photos, they were still on their lunch break. Reuben Williamson, who is not a member of the group and does not play, was at the grill serving up hamburgers and smokie hot dogs. Reuben has been in and out of Hedley for many years. For him it was a brief connection with the players.

Dasha, taking a break
Dasha, taking a break

Dasha, who has played Bike Polo for a number of years, told me “I do it for fitness and social reasons. And I enjoy playing.”

In an interview with Tara Bowie in the Keremeos Review, Shannon Frey talked about how the group selected Hedley for a retreat 2 years ago. “We were looking for a good location,” she said, “and, believe it or not, we started looking through Google Maps. We need a big surface like an outside ice rink or tennis court. We saw the rink in Hedley and were able to organize it last year. It was a lot of fun and the local people seemed to enjoy it. They were so happy to have us here and we were so happy to be here. It’s a great mesh.”

According to Community Club President, Rod Moncrieff, the group

Lunch break for all
Lunch break for all

is a good fit for the town. They rent the rink, which helps the club. Also, they are well behaved and not a problem. They have plans to return next year and Rod will be happy to see them come back.

In the

An ardent bike polo player
An ardent bike polo player

aforementioned article, Tara Bowie shed some light on the sport. “Each team has 3 players,” she wrote. “Sticks are very similar to croquet mallets. Players generally hold the mallet in their right hand and brake with their left. They use regular bikes with modifications. Bikes need to have a tight turn capacity with modified gears. Protectors need to be put in wheels so balls and mallets cannot go through and cause an accident.”

Players practising techniques
Players practising techniques

They weren’t playing a game while I was there but I saw several players out on the court with their bikes. My neighbour Russ watched a game and he said, “it gets a little rough. Some of the players have scrapes on their arms and legs.” Helmets, knee and elbow pads, and big gloves are required to protect the players.

The Hard Court Bike Polo Blog states “players are not allowed to put a foot down and touch the surface of the court. If that happens, the player must go to the side of the court and ring a bell before resuming play.”

The blog also says, “light contact is allowed. Trash talk is also permitted.”

According to Wikipedia, Richard J Mecredy, a retired champion cyclist in Ireland invented the sport in 1891. Originally it was played only on grass. It is now played in many countries, including France,

Morgan, a committed observer
Morgan, a committed observer

India, the USA, etc.

Without exception, the bike polo players are a lean bunch. I didn’t notice an ounce of extra fat on any of them. They are also congenial, totally willing to engage in conversation. A welcome influx of energy and enthusiasm into our little community.

Okanagan Gleaners Feed Hungry People

The consulting firm, Value Chain International, recently reported IMG_1143that in Canada $31 Billion worth of food is wasted annually. In view of this, I’m impressed with what Okanagan Gleaners Society of Oliver is doing. The Gleaners have developed an ingenious but simple formula using unwanted food to feed hungry people around the globe.

In a 2 hour tour of the Gleaners plant, Society president Lex Haagen told Linda and me, “We’re almost 100 percent volunteer and donor driven. Except for the General Manager, we’re all volunteers.” Lex appreciates the help being given by people in the Similkameen Valley. He hopes many more will catch the vision and pitch in.

A former City of Abbotsford Fire Chief, Lex is lean and fit. He has certainly caught the vision. His enthusiasm and commitment are palpable. Observing the approximately 20 volunteers at work, we sensed an aura of determination and contentment. Intent on their assignments, they seemed largely oblivious to our presence.

We learned the Gleaners depend on donations of beans, egg

Lex Haagen holding a bag of dried soup mix.
Lex Haagen holding a bag of dried soup mix.

plant, onions, carrots, brussel sprouts , peas, potatoes, etc. They also welcome apples. The produce is chopped up, dried and stored in barrels. The apple chips are a treat particularly prized by children.

“By next April we’ll have about 900 full barrels,” Lex explained. “We will use an assembly line of people to scoop a measured amount of mix into a moving bucket. This will be transferred into plastic bags. Each bag will contain 15 to 20 ingredients and provide 100 servings of soup mix. Recipients will add their local spices. The apple chips are bagged

Jack Woods has been a volunteer since 2003.
Jack Woods has been a volunteer since 2003.

separately.”

Lex introduced us to Jack Woods, formerly in the trucking business. Now 81, he said, “I’ve been coming since 2003. Two weeks in spring and two in fall.” His face suggests strength of character, his voice exudes passion.

Sharon McClennan saw hungry children when she volunteered in the Philippines. She asked, “where else can I go to help produce 21,000 meals per day for people who are starving?”

As we passed the noisy dehydrators, we needed to listen carefully as

Sharon McClennan holding a handful of spinach
Sharon McClennan holding a handful of spinach

Lex continued. “The funds to run and maintain the equipment come almost entirely from individual donors. The vegetables and apples are supplied by farmers and others. If the quantity is fairly large, we will pick up. We also use frozen product, provided by Lucerne Foods in Abbotsford. Cobs in Penticton and Tim Horton’s in Oliver donate (day old) treats for coffee time.”

The soup mixes and apple chips are distributed through established, reputable organizations such as World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, Missions Without Borders and several others. Hungry people in over 40 countries on 5 continents have received the mixes.

At least 8 Gleaners societies currently operate in Canada. “We make good use of food that would otherwise be wasted,” Lex told us. “Each year our plant produces at least 5 million servings. To accomplish this we depend on donations of produce and money. We also need people with specific skills such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, mechanics, and accounting.”

A note from an appreciative African aid worker describes the Gleaners impact in one village. “After the people here had been eating the soup mix for a month, we noticed they were more alert and had energy to work.”

Toward the end of our tour, Lex observed, “it’s easy to write a cheque, but there is a deep satisfaction that comes from hands on experience. Volunteers know they are personally providing nutritious food to hungry people.”

Okanagan Gleaners began operations in 1996, the vision of a small group of Christians concerned about food being wasted while others starved. “We welcome anyone who wants to help,” Lex said. “We never turn anyone away.”

Volunteers arrive from all parts of B.C. and the prairie provinces, even Ontario. Twelve serviced RV sites are available, plus tenting in the orchard. Registration is important from April to October. “In summer we get quite a few families,” Lex said. “It’s a good way for children to learn about giving to those who have little.” According to the Gleaners website, “if you can clean and chop, you can help.” They work from 8:30 to noon.

Anyone wanting more information can call 250-498-8859 or go to www.okanagangleaners.com

Hedley Opens Its Doors For Business

The weather in Hedley this past Sunday was exactly what the yard sale vendors were hoping for. Bright sun, clear blue sky, warm air. It certainly enticed people out of their homes. A number arrived from other places, especially Keremeos.

The day began with a Pancake Breakfast at the Seniors’ Centre. This is invariably a popular event that takes place on the second Sunday of every month. For a mere $5.00 they serve 2 pancakes, 2 sausages

George Koene Flipping Pancakes
George Koene Flipping Pancakes

or slices of bacon, 2 eggs and coffee. As usual, George Koene was at the grill flipping pancakes. When Linda and I met him on our walk in the evening, he said, “I’m retiring from making the pancakes. All together, I’ve done it 7 years. It’s time for a younger person to take over”. He is in his early 80’s. I was told they had served 100 patrons. Most of the seniors on duty are well into the seventies, some in the eighties.

At noon Doug Bratt, co-owner of the Country Market, fired up his grill and served his famous burgers. The Hedley Grace Church put on a delicious potluck. It really isn’t entirely fair to subject our palettes and digestive systems to such an array of temptations on one day. However, we never object.

Mike's Exerise System
Mike’s Exerise System

Walking the streets of town was an opportunity to check out the yard sale wares and meet people. I was tempted by MikeJacobs’exercise system. Unfortunately we just don’t have the space for it. The only area that might be large enough is the 5 x 5 Hen House. I know “the girls” would be gracious and accommodating. Of course, they’d consider it a place to exercise their powers of fertilization. I contented myself with viewing it longingly.

Linda Bell & the doll collection
Linda Bell & the doll collection

When Linda and I arrived at Fred and Linda Bell’s yard sale, we were immediately entranced by their collection of dolls. They had been successful in bidding on the contents of a storage locker, and the dolls had been stashed in a trunk there. Most of them were priced at about $45, but they expected a couple of exquisite aboriginal beauties to fetch more.

Moving on from there, we found

Jill and handcrafted doll
Jill and handcrafted doll

a handcrafted doll hanging on the wall of a garage owned by Jill, a recent newcomer to Hedley.

At the Community Club we talked with T.J. Bratt, the other co-owner of the Country Market. It was now 2 pm, pretty much time for the yard sale to wind up. There were still a number of items on the tables, but T.J. said a lot of people had come in and they’d had a profitable day.

The Hedley Historical Museum had already opened for the

Jim Grey at the Hedley Historical Museum
Jim Grey at the Hedley Historical Museum

season on May 1st. Currently Jim Grey is on duty from Friday to Monday. He is essentially a volunteer but does receive an honorarium. Jim enjoys people and happily answers all questions. He also has pie and coffee or tea available in The Tea Room. This wasn’t a strong business day at the Museum, but its yard sale did turn a small profit. Jim is confident more tourists will begin coming in soon. Traffic on the highway through Hedley is definitely increasing.

It’s a delight to see Hedley awaking from its winter slumber. The lilacs are blooming. People are smiling, feeling upbeat. There is a sense of anticipation. It’s definitely spring time in Hedley.

Community Land Trust Needed Here?

Recently I received an e-mail that thoroughly mystified me. It was a copy of a grim diatribe against a concept being floated by a couple of community advocates in Hedley. As reported in this paper last week, Angelique Wood and Kim English are asking local residents to think about establishing a Community Land Trust here. The concept was first instituted in India and has been successfully implemented in a number of North American communities.

Without providing any documentation, the nay-sayer raises a number of complaints against Community Land Trusts and those associated with them. Since there is no reference to sources, we have to ask whether the complaints are based on facts or mere assumptions. The writer says, for example, “Most CLT proponents espouse anti-development and collectivist ideologies generally detrimental to any community.” This is a pretty sweeping, all-encompassing assertion.

If there is a case to be made against Community Land Trusts, it needs to be based on solid research, not on skimpy information gleaned from a negative on-line article.

I do believe a community can benefit from those who take the time to rigorously examine proposals like this. We need to know that the vision of the proponents is backed up by a thorough understanding of the needs of the community. Questions based on scrupulous research will require the proponents to explain why their idea has merit. If the questioners and proponents are willing to enter into a productive dialogue, the idea may become even more beneficial.

We’ll never make progress if we automatically throw out ideas just because they are unfamiliar. If a new concept will benefit the people in our community, why would we let a “knee jerk” response turn us against it? In spite of this nay-sayer’s rather bitter opposition, a Community Land Trust does appear to offer possibilities and, in my view, warrants careful consideration.

For English and Wood, their vision for a Community Land Trust appears to be a means to an end, not an end in itself. They speak of it in conjunction with a variety of services that would enable seniors to stay in this community. These services might include Meals on Wheels, the presence of a nurse on a part-time basis, more adequate transportation to medical facilities in Penticton, etc.

Margaret Skaar, is a longterm Hedley resident who IMG_1093contributes many volunteer hours to local groups. She would like to live here as long as possible. She says, “when moving here 25 years ago, we had a much better health care support service. This has been eroded over the years. If we want to age in Hedley, something has to be done to turn this around. To leave things as they are, we will be either a dying community or will be eaten up by a land grab with prices sky rocketing along with our taxes. We need to examine the potential of a Community Land Trust by assessing the needs of Hedley’s residents.”

A few negative agitators can put a stranglehold on an idea that could have positive potential for a community. With their bold attacks it is possible some citizens might be persuaded to agree with them. Often they speak with a note of authority. Faced with their onslaught, the proponents may become discouraged. The nay-sayer in this case concluded with the words, “We therefore suggest that Angelique Wood and Kim English care for ‘the poor’ somewhere else.”

Very likely some individuals with a negative mind-set toward improving a community honestly believe they are right. In some instances, if they are listened to respectfully, they become willing to work collaboratively with positive minded people.

When agitators are motivated by jealousy or vengefulness it is unlikely they will change their thinking. If they are not resisted, they have the potential to turn people against those who wish to improve conditions. There are times when it is not a good idea to “live and let live.” There are times when a community should not remain silent.

I don’t know enough about Community Land Trusts to recommend this as a good approach for Hedley. However, if we want constructive change that enables young families to buy homes here, and permits seniors to stay longer, we will need to listen to individuals who have positive ideas and the will to make them a reality.

Allisons of the Similkameen

The story of the Allisons of the Similkameen Valley has the flavour and deep fascination of a great saga. It began when John Fall Allison, at age 12, emigrated with his family from England to

John Fall Allison
John Fall Allison

the U.S. in 1837. As an adult he became infected with gold fever and was enticed to B.C. by news of gold on the Fraser River. Governor James Douglass, evidently impressed by John Fall, appointed him to investigate the Similkameen area.

As happened so often with European men, he took a young aboriginal woman as his wife. Nora Yakumtikum, according to a great granddaughter, came from a royal blood line going back 16 generations. She was 15 at the time.

It was Nora who initially stirred my interest in this story. She has gained considerable attention due to her pack train venture. Nancy Allison of Hedley, another great granddaughter, says she hauled groceries and mining supplies from Hope to Greenwood. Nancy thinks she had about 40 horses and employed people to help her. Rugged and mountainous, the trail required physical endurance and strength of character. Nancy suggests it was likely Nora who made John Fall aware of the Allison Pass route.

John Fall and Nora had 3 children, Lily, Albert (Bertie), and Charles (Enoch). She later bore another son, “Wichie”.

According to B.C. historian M.A. Ormsby, in the 1860’s Allison found placer gold, copper and coal on the Similkameen River. He claimed 160 acres at the junction of the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers.

Nora Allison (left) with her granddaughter
Nora Allison (left) with her granddaughter

The relationship between John Fall and Nora ended sometime after the birth of their third child. Information concerning Nora’s life after this is sketchy. We do know though that she has numerous descendants from one end of the Similkameen Valley to the other.

In 1868, at age 43, John Fall married Susan Moir who he had met in Hope. Their honeymoon, according to Ormsby, consisted of a horseback ride from Hope to the Similkameen Valley. It must have been a steep learning curve for the 23 year old Susan. She had received a good education in England, having studied French, Latin and Greek. They settled into a log home which John Fall had built. He bought a number of Durham cattle and in time his herd of 100 swelled to 1000. At times he also prospected and explored.

In this wilderness setting little medical help was available. Ormsby says “when Susan delivered her first child, only her husband and an Indian woman were present.”

Although accounts vary as to where Nora was during these years, we do know that her daughter Lily stayed with John Fall and Susan and helped with raising the children and household chores. In “A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia”, Susan speaks highly of the assistance provided by Lily. At times John Fall was away for many weeks on cattle drives to New Westminster. Without Lily, life for Susan would have been extremely difficult. In total Susan gave birth to 14 children.

In the severe winter of 1877-78, John Fall lost half his cattle due to the cold. Then, in the winter of 1880-81 a heavy snowfall collapsed the roof of their house. While John Fall was away on a cattle drive in April, 1882 their house burned down. The family temporarily moved into the cowboys’ shack. He rebuilt the house. In 1884 the Similkameen River flooded, destroying their home and 14 outbuildings. They converted a cattle barn into a home.

John Fall caught pneumonia in 1897 and died at age 72. M.A. Ormsby says his discoveries had laid the basis for the great gold mining boom of the 1890’s which resulted in mining towns like Hedley.

Susan Allison
Susan Allison

“A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia” provides an interesting account of the pioneering life as Susan and John Fall experienced it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mention Nora. She lived until 1939 and was likely interred at the Mission Chapel just east of Hedley.

Due to space limitations, this account is incomplete. Also, there isn’t total agreement on all details. My purpose is to help keep alive a fascinating piece of Similkameen history. Certainly both Nora and Susan, and also John Fall Allison, played a significant role in the settlement and development of our beautiful Similkameen Valley.

Gifting of Hedley Grace Church

For Graham Gore, pastor of the Hedley Grace Church, this past

Wednesday, April 22

Bud Best representing Cawston United Church with Peggy Terry and Graham Gore of Hedley Grace Church
Bud Best representing Cawston United Church with Peggy Terry and Graham Gore of Hedley Grace Church

was no ordinary day. He and church treasurer Peggy Terry signed legal papers by which the Cawston United Church “sold” the church building to the local congregation for $1.00. At this time the land still belongs to the Crown.

From its earliest days, during the gold mining boom in Hedley, church work here was a collaborative effort. Historian Harry Barnes wrote that “afternoon services were conducted in a tent in Hedley by Rev. E.E. Hardwick. He was employed by the mine.”

In 1902, the Methodists sent J.W. Hedley (not the Hedley the town is named for) and he held evening services, initially in the hotel and then in a tent. A year later, in 1903, a church building was constructed by Rev. Hedley on donated land. M.K. Rodgers, general manager of the Kelowna Exploration Company, gave considerable assistance to this project. They also built a home for the minister. Workers at the Stamp Mill supported the project financially, and also with labour. Rev. Hedley regularly visited the families at the town site on Nickel Plate mountain.

In 1903 Hedley’s first school was opened, located in the rear of the church. The church building also served as headquarters for the Twentieth Century Club and the Library.

The United Methodists joined with other denominations in 1925 to establish the United Church. A further coalescing happened in 1969 when various denominations drew together to become the Keremeos Ecumenical Parish.

It was not until 2001 that a septic system was installed and water

Hedley Grace Church
Hedley Grace Church

lines were brought into the church for the kitchen and bathroom. Local Extras in the Jack Nicholson movie, The Pledge, donated some of their earnings toward this project. The Mennonite Disaster Service and the Kamloops United Church joined up to refurbish the interior and exterior of the church.

In 2008 the congregation joined the “Congregational Christian Churches of Canada” and adopted the name, Hedley Grace Church. Now, as in earlier years, the church is deeply involved in the life of the community. Each year it holds a bottle drive, with considerable support from the community, to raise funds to send Hedley children to camp. At Christmas it cooperates with The Country Market to provide hampers to needy families and individuals. Most of the adherents are also involved in other organizations in town. It’s still a collaborative effort.

From Mt. Kilimanjaro to Hedley

Kim English of Hedley has visited Europe approximately 15 times.

Kim English
Kim English

She has done volunteer work in Tanzania and lived in a mud hut on Mt. Kilimanjaro. In Vancouver she successfully sold art at the Inuit Gallery. Six years ago she arrived in Hedley to visit a friend and stay “just for the summer.”

When I asked what had prompted her to make this little community her home she said, “I didn’t realize at that time my nephew Jordan would be coming to live with me. He was having significant behavioural challenges in his home and at school. I thought the slower pace and quiet of Hedley would have a calming effect. He’s the reason I stayed.”

During the time Jordan lived with Kim, we had opportunities to observe some of her interactions with him. Not having children of her own, it must have been a steep learning curve. What impressed us most was her total commitment to this youth who was bringing turmoil into her life. She spoke to him patiently but firmly. At times we were surprised at her understanding. Observing her in this relationship has led us to believe that her endeavours in the Similkameen community come from a basis of commitment to the people.

Kim came with little except some pretty decent furniture and a

Kim English, standing in her front yard.
Kim English, standing in her front yard.

willingness to do virtually anything to survive financially. She was single and after a failed relationship, had no interest in men. Also, in the city she had used public transit so she didn’t have a Driver’s Licence or a vehicle. She found a home to rent and began building a new life. She had ideas and a desire to make a positive difference. Initially she worked as a waitress at the Hitching Post Restaurant and also did pruning in a vineyard. A lot has changed since that early beginning.

One of the constants in Kim’s life since 1989 has been a friendship with Angelique Wood. As a student in Classical Studies at Langara College and then majoring in archaeology at SFU, she leaned on Angelique for help. “I had some dyslexia issues, particularly a problem with jumbling words,” she said. “Before I handed in papers, I asked Angelique to proof read them.”

In Hedley they have developed a collaborative partnership. While Angelique was an RDOS Director, they attracted a number of Similkameen community leaders to Hedley for “Community Conversations.” Their goal was to inspire creative approaches to community issues.

“One of the challenges for small, out of the way communities like Hedley,” she said, “is that seniors are moving to larger centres to get the services they need. They can’t manage on their own. That’s why we brought in a couple of speakers from Keremeos to explain Meals on Wheels. We don’t want to lose the wisdom and experience of seniors.”

She is also concerned that few families move to Hedley. “We need to make it possible for them to buy a home,” she believes. “One way of doing this would be to establish a Land Trust. We’ve had productive conversations with Michael Lewis, an expert in the field. The trust concept has been proven to be a viable approach in a number of places. We need people to live in the homes that are now empty. We need them to participate in the community. I believe they will come if there are attractive options. We’ll have to be creative to make this happen.”

Recently Kim has ventured into the realm of politics, supporting her friend Angelique who is the NDP candidate for the local riding. She is a member of the Election Planning Committee and a volunteer coordinator for the riding’s southern section.

I said earlier that a number of things have changed for Kim. She now has a Driver’s Licence and owns a shiny, nearly new 4×4 pickup. She has also bought a home and for a time had chickens in her back yard. Probably most exciting, she met Andy English when they were both members of the Hedley Fire Department. They are now happily married.

There is a further very positive development. When Jordan visited Kim and Andy recently, I spoke with him briefly. His growth in confidence and maturity is impressive, even delightful.

Kim’s commitment to fostering change in her family and her community is producing positive results. She has no plans to return to Mt. Kilimanjaro any time soon.