This November, the Penticton branch of Junior Chamber International is celebrating a milestone birthday.
"We’re still here, we are 75 years old," said Margie Hibbard co-chair for the JCI’s 75th Gala, coming up on Nov. 14.
"In the spring of 1940, the JayCees, as they were known then were formed in Penticton at a time when there were 20 chapters in B.C. and over 110 in the US and Canada," Hibbard told Penticton city council at a recent meeting. "The JayCees were a group of young active citizens — men only at the time — that were dedicated to creating positive change in their community."
For the first half of the organization’s history, its main focus was driving tourism to Penticton. To that end, their first program was to clean up Skaha Lake beach and attract tourists from the U.S. at a time when they were expecting a large contingent to come, since the Second World War had taken European destinations out of the running.
"It was really a different time than we are going through right now, but we continue to be committed to creating positive change in our community and the world," said Hibbard.
Over the last 75 years, Hibbard added, the JCI has been active in supporting and creating many projects in Penticton: Peach Festival, creating tourist maps, revitalizing the channel and starting the River Float parade, which eventually evolved into the Mr. Muscle, Miss Bikini contest, a major source of funding for the club. Most recently, they have been recognized for the Top 40 under 40 project, which saw 40 of the community’s young entrepreneurs profiled in the pages of the Western News and other media outlets.
"When it was first talked about, I thought you are going to be hard-pressed to find 40 under 40," Mayor Andrew Jakubeit told Hibbard. "It was a stunning success, and it was a real myriad of people that got highlighted, not just for their business acumen, but for various levels of community support and passion."
In preparation, Hibbard said JCI is looking for stories and memorabilia to build a picture of the group’s history in the community. Hibbard is especially looking for details from the late 40s, the mid-late 60s, late 70s and early 80s, especially details of projects, like the channel revitalization, Munson Mountain, Jaycee Place at Skaha Lake and McLaren Ball Park. All those who respond with information, photos or memorabilia will be entered in a draw for two tickets to the gala. JCI Penticton can be reached via email at email@example.com or through their Facebook page www.facebook.com/jcipenticton. The birthday is a formal affair, taking place at the Ramada Inn on Nov. 14 from 6 to 11 p.m. with entertainment by Uncorked.