The Cariboo Regional District has approved a $1,000 grant-in-aid for , which is struggling to pay its bills because of lost revenue due to COVID-19.
Electoral Area G director Al Richmond asked the board Friday, March 5, to approve the funding as the centre did not receive any COVID-19 safe restart money that was allocated to community halls across the region. The centre serves seniors across the South Cariboo.
“I’m trying to help a group that does a lot of work for seniors in Lac La Hache for just a portion of what they need,” said Richmond. “This is a gathering place for seniors in Lac La Hache.”
The approval followed intense debate around the board table, with Electoral Area D director Steve Forseth arguing that they were going against CRD policy by approving grants-in-aid for operating expenses like insurance. He was supported by Area B director Barb Bachmeier who suggested the group try virtual fundraising or seek donations.
However, Richmond noted the centre’s volunteers are an extremely active group they do a lot of self-funding, such as holding dinners at Christmas and Thanksgiving potluck but those have been curtailed because of COVID.
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The Pioneer Centre should have been included with the community halls as they also have a building to maintain and bills to pay, he said. If the board wasn’t willing to approve the grant, he added it should consider allocating the COVID-19 restart grants to electoral areas based on population. He has about 5,000 people he is responsible for in Area G, which runs from 70 Mile House to Lac La Hache.
100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall urged the board to support the motion, noting the South Cariboo has the largest number of seniors in B.C. next to Qualicum Beach. He estimates the South Cariboo’s percentage of seniors has risen about 10 per cent during the pandemic, to between 55 and 70 per cent.
“People have got to realize in our area we are the largest seniors demographic on the mainland in B.C.,” he said.”We’ve got to start looking after our seniors and working with our seniors. They’ve lost all ability to raise funds. How can you not support the people who made the community what it is? If we don’t help these people and help them to keep going on the right track we’re going to lose and lose bigger than you think.”
Area E director Angie Delainey also encouraged the board to vote in favour, saying she didn’t want to see a further decline in volunteerism. “If we make things really difficult may see people throw in the towel,” she said, adding she understands Forseth’s concerns but “I just don’t want to see our volunteer groups pack it in.”
The Board also agreed to bring a report to board to discuss where to allocate any unused COVID restart funds, based on the priorities at that time.