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The Good. The Bad. The Ugly And the Kind.

“Sharing some acts of kindness and hoping for more.”

2021 Merritt Flood in British Columbia Canada – The community of Merritt BC Canada, has witnessed devastating forest fires, and floods in the last year. It seems this year, 2021, Merritt, and parts of the Nicola Valley, have gone through a merry-go-round of evacuation alerts, and evacuation orders. Some residence left. Some stayed behind. All have their reasons. The end result is a population in a community who are tired, worn out, confused, scared, or optimistic and, yes, some are angry too.

The 2021 Merritt Flood

During the 2021 Merritt Flood and Forest Fires, tragedy happened on all levels of devastation. There is no ignoring that. There are no benefits in comparing one heartache to another. They all hurt. Some more than others. Some life changing. I wish I could turn back time. Make this all go away. I wish my friends had their homes back. Smiling and laughing again would be another wish. I wish living in Merritt was like it use to be. Unfortunately I am no Genie. No lamp to rub just a water bottle to fill. All I have are big wishes with little answers. But I do have hope.

My Super Power

I take pride in my listening and observation skills. So, let me share my take on that. We are all our own master on what we decide to listen too and observe. We can take it all in, flip it upside down, make what we want of it. Some of us process the positive and spit out the negative or vice-versa. But what you process is up to you. Hence why, with all the sadness, I have decided to share some “warm and fuzzy” stories,  sending out some positive vibes to the community of Merritt, Princeton, Abbotsford and to our First Nation friends. I would like to share some of the kind and positive gestures I witnessed along this ugly road we travelled called the 2021 Merritt Flood in the City of Merritt BC Canada. 

8 Acts of Kindness

Because of the nature of my work online globally, and locally with Experience Nicola Valley, I see the good, the bad and the ugly of the internet. There are many sources online of nasty, negative with a big dose of nasty conversations. We all have a choice of which lens we choose to look through for every situation life presents us. Me? Well… when it comes to the Merritt Flood I choose hope. We need more stories of good people doing good things during these challenging times. Hence, why I am going to focus on the positive stories and share some “acts of kindness” I and my friends experienced during the 2021 Merritt flood.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Aesop

(1) ESS and Red Cross

The evacuation had problems on many levels. Remember, no one saw this coming. Yes, there were warning signs and reports and white papers. But…  no one saw it coming on November 15th, 2021. No meteorologists, engineer, politician or scientist told us to buckle in for a massive rain storm and possible flooding. Many of us went to bed the night before expecting to wake up to another normal Monday. Well that didn’t happen. The evacuation order caught us all by surprise. Therefore people slipped through the cracks. Communication was suspect. Volunteers were stretched at ESS and the  Red Cross.  Should I stay or should I go? Yes, the process was not perfect by any means. News flash! Nothing is perfect in a blender of chaos.  

(2) Volunteers

I know why it is tough to get volunteers at times. Just watch how some people treat them, like it was their fault. All they are doing is following direction or the lack of.  A big thank you to the volunteers for taking care of us with the best tools at their disposal. I know you did your best  and you did not design the system nor the process. I also know you are a volunteer, on your time, to make our challenges as comfortable as possible. So thank you to all the volunteers in Kelowna, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, 100 Mile House, Sicamous, Penticton and those in Merritt helping the community get back on its feet again. And if I missed anybody, my apologies. But thank you again! 

Merritt volunteers

Lining up for ESS. Photo credit: Greg Girard

(3) Let Me See The Light

The 2021 Merritt Flood was a sight I would not wish on anyone. Everything changed in a blink of an eye. Before we knew it, we were evacuated and in a hotel room. Everything was new again including an Optometry Office and a LensCrafters, next door in Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna BC Canada. I needed glasses for the first time and I did not have my prescription with me. But I did have time.  Dr. Keevn Otte heard I was an evacuee from Merritt and booked me in and redid my prescription at no charge! Then Ben, at LensCrafters, set me up with my new lens and frames and he too gave me a break on price, on top of the Black Friday Special. I was seeing with my eyes, the kindness of people. 

(4) Green Plate of Hospitality

Not sure of the back story on this one but it goes something like this. Someone at our hotel, the Kanata, was out in public one day sharing how eating out all the time was getting old. Someone, was listening in. Who we do not know? The next morning 50 trays of vegetables and dip arrived at the lobby in our hotel from an unknown source, someone who did not want to be recognized, but did it out of the goodness of their heart. To that mystery person if you are reading this – thank you for your kind gesture.  Loved the mini tomatoes and green peas.

merritt flood 2021

Vegetable tray surprise. Photo credit: Melvina White

(5) Class is in Session

Have you heard of the story of Ewa Olguin, an early childhood educator in Merritt, BC, Canada? If you have not, Ewa was evacuated from Merritt like many of us. At her hotel she recognized many of the kids were from the “Strong Start” Program back in Merritt. Her place of employment I believe. In seeing the children, away from a regular routine and their homes, Ewa decided to start a 3 hour class every morning with the kids reading, playing and learning.  Thank you Ewa!

(6) Is That To Eat In or To Go?

As we stated at the beginning of this list, the littlest gesture can make a difference. How about just smiling. When you eat at one spot for days on days they get to know you. In our case it was Boston Pizza. It did not take a lot of time for them to recognize our orders and to begin greeting us with smiles, and conversations when we ate in or picked up. Thank you for feeding many of us from the 2021 Merritt flood. 

(7) Experience Nicola Valley Pivot

When people are scared, and living in a mist of confusion, information is the currency of choice. I watched as councillors were inundated daily with phone calls, text and emails numbering in the hundreds asking questions and seeking answers. Being on the front lines of the evacuation, mixed in amongst the local population, every day and hour, your sleeves get tugged on a lot.  And yet, the questions were often 2 steps ahead of the answers available to councillors. They could only share what they knew and as information was being released. But they knew communication is the currency of choice during a disaster. So they stepped up. First to video, Experience Nicola Valley was proud to pivot their platform, so they could bring daily video updates, as need be, from Councillor White, Luck and Etchart. And then… some councillors met with the evacuees in the hotel lobby daily for briefings and updates as well. It took some guts to put their face out there. But they were humble, caring and doing what was right updating us the best they can. Thank you!

(8) Friends, Family and Business Partners

When the news hit all over Canada of the 2021 Merritt Flood, I could not believe the emails that flooded my in-box from people checking in on us from all around the world. Some I have not heard from in years and a few in decades. It was a moment-of-truth to see so many people checking in on my Brother and I.  We are so fortunate to have good people surrounding us and supporting us. Thank you and we are grateful for your kindness, support and friendship. 

brothers of tourism merritt flood

Colin and I on Evacuation Order in Kelowna BC. Photo credit: Greg Girard

Social Media

If social media is your only go-too for information, well then there might be issues with that? Working in that field, I  understand the pros and cons of a platform with little rules and high engagement. It is a platform which makes its rules on the fly based on all sides of human nature, good and bad. And there is good and bad. Do not get me wrong, social media, is a beautiful thing. I have seen lives changed for the better when social media is used positively.  Social media is a treasure for small businesses to get their message out. To me it is an art form. However, at times, it is also a bloody battlefield where communication is won or lost. There is one big caveat to the social media battlefield :

“Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses.”
Tracy Morgan

Together, when we start commenting, and sharing and posting and tagging each other with positive stories, good news will travel faster. It takes a movement, to create a message. 

Winter Adventures coming soon to the Nicola Valley. We are open for winter. 

I Choose Hope

I have witnessed how the community is divided along many lines because of the 2021 Merritt floods and forest fires. A disaster will do that to any community. Emotions will run rampant. Loses are off the map. But I have hope because the overall dominating factor in this conundrum are the people of Merritt. They are my baseline in the equation of building back better. Many are my friends. I have been around Merritonians long enough to know they are a strong and good people. Merritt will be back. I will do everything I can to be part of that re-awakening.  

Stay safe. Be kind. 

#merrittmatters

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                        Nicola Valley Foodbank

                     Merritt’s Nicola Valley Food Bank

“For some people life has been too much. They are overwhelmed and just can’t cope any more. It could have been me. It could be you.”  Derlanda Hewton, manager.             

Nicola Valley Foodbank ( some say Food Bank) in Merritt BC

In the 1990’s at the Crossroads Community Church, our community opened the Nicola Valley Foodbank.  From this small  beginning, it soon grew to fill the space it uses today. The Nicola Valley Foodbank planners designed it to supplement the diets of children, seniors, low income residents and the working poor.  Today, as when it first opened, the need is overwhelming.

nicola valley foodbank

Derlanda Hewton (left) of the Nicola Valley Foodbank

Why do people use foodbanks?

Derlanda, our Nicola Valley Food Bank manager, became involved with the foodbank by chance. She was struggling to find suitable work because of a disability.  When Work B.C. told her about a client advocate job at the foodbank, she applied and is now the manager. She knows why the food bank is so desperately needed and what causes that need. She sees it daily.

“For some”, she says “it is stress; for others, a job loss; some lose partners or children; still others can’t keep their housing.” For these people,” she says “life has been too much. They are overwhelmed and just can’t cope anymore. It could have been me. It could be you.”

Besides providing food, what else does the foodbank do?

Clients who use the foodbank often need other services too. Many times they are not even aware of the help that is available to them. The Nicola Valley foodbank educates them by putting them in touch with other agencies and services such as Work B.C., Merritt Youth and Families, the Cold Weather Shelter and Ask Wellness.

save on foods Nicola Valley foodbank

Save On Foods and the Nicola Valley Foodbank

Environmentally friendly changes coming

Of course food is the priority for the foodbank, but speaking with manager Derlanda Hewton really surprised me. Not only does the food bank distribute food to those in need, as you would expect, but it is also involved in a number of earth friendly programs to reduce food waste and increase local food security.

The zero waste initiative- No food to the garbage!

No food to the garbage is a big change in the way we use food- and one that is long overdue! The Food Bank Canada initiative plan involves many of our local food stores and farmers. They work with the Nicola Valley Food Bank to reduce waste in a big way. It works like this: the stores donate unsold, but still good, food to the foodbank. When it is not fit for humans, it will be sent to farmers for animal feed or to animal rescue shelters. If unfit for humans or animals, it will be composted and returned to the earth to improve the soil. Humans benefit, animals benefit and the earth benefits. A nice win, win, win situation for all.

Nicola Valley volunteers

Thank you to our Nicola Valley Foodbank volunteers

Long term plans

When I asked Derlanda what the long term plans for the Nicola Valley Foodbank were , she told me it depends on the type of facilities they will  have. Their ideal building would include walk in freezers, coolers, an air conditioned kitchen and an education centre. They want to teach clients how to cook unfamiliar food and how to preserve extra garden produce {canning, drying and freezing fruit and vegetables).  I think this would pair well with a community garden if one were started close by, don’t you?) Now there’s a project for a gardening group.

Does technology help?

When I asked Derlanda this question the answer was a definite, yes! Did you know the Nicola Valley Foodbank can accept donations through the square? And that you can find them on social media and on blogs? In addition,  they are also on the Farmers Market Site? They have their own website too. Here is the link: Nicola Valley Food Bank.

Volunteers- always needed; always appreciated

This summer saw 15 volunteers at our local foodback, including 3-13-year-olds. These ( both reliable and hardworking) young people pitched right in wherever they were needed! There were also 3 part time drivers, 1 summer student and a janitor. The foodbank found them through Open Door and Work B.C. The students are back in school now so if you have extra time, come volunteer.

Fundraising

In addition to volunteers, the Nicola Valley Foodbank always needs both food and money. A rumor made the rounds this summer that the foodbank didn’t need any more garden produce.  And that they just threw away the excess.  NOT TRUE. Our Nicola Valley Food Bank uses all the food it can get!  So gardeners, please know that any extra produce is definitely appreciated.

toy drive

Nicola Valley Toy Drive

Donations

Someone said that since the Nicola Valley Foodbank runs on donated food, they shouldn’t need money. Well, I saw volunteers stocking shelves with diapers, baby food, formula, feminine hygene products, laundry soap and other necessities. I know these things don’t grow in my garden! And in addition to food, how about  gas for that delivery van out back? Also the lights for the building? And not only the heat but also the rent? Yes, the foodbank needs money. They supply very basic needs.  The only “luxury” on the shelves?  Donated chocolate!  Could you go months without a piece of chocolate? Well, if you could, would you want to?

Yes, running our Nicola Valley Foodbank takes cash, serious cash. They are quiet about their need, and don’t talk about it much. But they worry.  As your blogger, I tell it like it is. They just want to keep those shelves filled. So I can say, they really need money! There are donation boxes wherever we have events in Merritt and we Merritonians are generous with food sharing. Let’s try shaking loose some spare cash too. Perhaps we could give up a chocolate bar or two and donate the money.  🙂

Why do they do it?

For the foodbank’s unpaid volunteers the job is often difficult, sad and (sometimes) frustrating. So why do they do it? “To give back to the community”, one says. “It’s knowing we can make a difference”, says another. What does Derlanda say? After all, she is the manager and sees it all. “It’s about food security for everyone in the Nicola Valley.” That, everyone, is the bottom line. We all need to eat.

Merritt Tourism

What did I learn? 

My level of ignorance about our local foodbank and the work it does was appalling. Yes, I  am a senior. However I  still go to the store and choose from hundreds of food items. For example, look at my chosen breakfast. Freshly cooked oatmeal with milk and a big, juicy peach. For  lunch I have fresh salad and a tasty sandwich.  In addition to all this, I know I will have dinner tonight. So, I will enjoy my roast chicken, rice and veggies.  Despite a limited budget, I can have chocolate any time I want, if I want it. Most importantly, after my foodbank visit I now remember to count myself among the very lucky!  

CONTACT US

Nicola Valley Foodbank
2026 Quilchena Ave, Merritt, BC

(250) 378-2282

Website

Facebook

Nicola Valley Foodbank

Merritt, British Columbia 

 

Nicola Valley Community Garden Society

Gardening in the Nicola Valley

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” Audrey Hepburn

Since 2012 when the Nicola Valley Community Garden Society came about by a group of friends who had a passion for gardening. They have wanted to continue to share that passion with their community.

Nicola Valley Community Garden has since become a place for members to share their expertise year after year with new gardeners and the community. Besides putting on different events and talks throughout the year, members also help each other with day-to-day tending when needed. 

 

gardening community garden bees growing food

Photo Credit – Nicola Valley Community Garden

 

Most importantly its a place where you can grow a garden with help from other members.  Whether you are new to gardening or an expert, young or old there is something for you. A few things they offer;

Plot Support

  • Compost sharing
  • Seed sharing
  • Joint Watering
  • Garden Mentoring
  • New to Gardening? They can help you get started.

Although its in a community setting the benefits can be astounding. Being in a community plot allows you to learn as you grow and it also allows you to help others along the way. It really is a win win situation.

First of all a garden is a place where you can slow down and take in the tranquility of your surroundings. Be sure to take a look at the little things while you’re gardening. Enjoy teaching your children how to grow their own nutritious food. Harvesting what you grow is so rewarding. Besides, I think there is nothing quite as soothing as digging in the dirt and nothing quite as rewarding as watching those little seeds come through the earth. As well as growing to become food on our plates.

growing food, community garden, garden plot, vegitables

Photo Credit – Nicola Valley Community Gardens

Few of the Past Functions

Every year the Nicola Valley Community Garden Society hosts a few exciting functions. Below are a few of the past functions held at the gardens.

Past Events

  • Salsa Fest. Although no longer run, this event was meant to be a community celebration. To share the wonderful produce available in the area or grown by the gardeners. It was a great opportunity to do a bit of fundraising. Fundraising helped ensure the organization and garden was sustainable into the future. The salsa competition was held on Aug 15, 2015. It was an exciting event that hosted 8 competitors and 3 judges. The attendees were also treated to a salsa dance lesson as well as delightful taste experiences. Wouldn’t be fun to have this event again?
  • Harvest Potluck. Again an older event, this was held on one day in the fall. Gardeners would all share their harvest with fellow members. What a great idea as not every one may want to grow the same things. Being able to share your bounty with others was a great benefit.
  • Yoga in the Garden. This event was held in the garden over the summer. Becoming a popular peaceful way to spend an hour. The Community Garden is looking at possibly reintroducing this. In order to do this they would need volunteers to help set it up and run it. If your interested contact the Nicola Valley Community Garden Society. 

And a couple more past talks

  • Compost and sq ft garden. There isn’t a lot known about this at the moment. They were talks they held once a month. Different subjects  discussed around composting and sq ft. gardening.
  • Earth ships by Sarah Molnar. Seems like a very interesting talk about combining your living space with your growing space and all the benefits you can rep by doing this.
  • Adventures in Permaculture with Julia Ghog and Mike Ebenal. While this talk featured three examples of experimental gardening using permaculture principles. The hugelkultur, the herb mound and the no-weed raised garden beds. It would also be interesting to learn other permaculture gardening ideas, for instance forest gardening.

Nicola Valley Community Garden  has a number of great events coming up in 2019. Be sure to check out NVCGS on Facebook or follow me at Experience Nicola Valley to read about whats going on past and present.

vegetables, good food, growing food

Photo credit – Nicola Valley Community Garden

Nicola Valley Community Garden’s Mission Statement

  • Facilitate and cooperate in the development of a sustainable food system for residents of the Nicola Valley.
  • Support the development of a network of community.
  • Encourage education in gardening; nutritional well-being and food security.
  • Engage seniors in the community mentoring of others.

Wondering how can you become involved? Check out a few options below. 

Support

Besides becoming an associate member of the NVCGS, which will help show that what they strive to do is important. And as a result this helps them generate funds to keep going. Whether you are gardening or interested in giving talks, there is always a way you can help support them.

Finally it promotes a sense of pride in our Community. As we work towards healthier lifestyles and food sustainability for all.

Upcoming events

In Conclusion here are some upcoming events for March

  • March 8th – 12-6 pm – NVIT
    Table at Food Connection Event
  • March 19th 6:30-7:30 Earthwalker Spiritual Shop
    Caring for House Plants and tropicals guest speaker
  • March 23rd – 10-4 – Civic Center
    Table at Nonprofit fair
  • March 30th 10-4 Civic Center
    1 o’clock talk about benefits of gardening @ Woman’s Fair

Contact

Nicola valley Community Gardens can be found on;

  • FaceBook
  • Instagram
  • email: nicolavalleycommunitygardens@gamil.com
  • Telephone: Alycia at – 604-833-8761

Nicola Valley Community Garden Society