Another year is in the books, and as we look back the City of Penticton certainly has had some newsworthy events.
The high water and smoke dominated our spring and summer, overshadowing many positives to celebrate. This week, I’d like to focus on some of the softer success stories. This was the first year that arts and culture in our community saw some significant exposure. It started with the Canada 150 Mosaic project, followed by the Penticton Public Sculpture Exhibition along Okanagan Lake, local art on display at the hospital, and the inaugural Arts Rising festival which showcased every discipline of the arts.
We are actually a very talented and supportive arts community, but when it comes to spending money to support it, divisive opinions can fracture or sometimes stall momentum. We all have a favourite song, movie, book or TV show. Just imagine spending one day without music, TV, admiring a painting, or being amused by a video on Facebook.
This year we also celebrated 40 years as a sister city to Ikeda, Japan. I joined a small delegation to visit Japan and was amazed by the similarities in topography, climate and friendliness of the residents. The Japanese garden by our art gallery is a beautiful public space for serenity, relaxation and special moments. It is the most obvious legacy or benefit from our sister city relationship. Forty years is a long time and the relationship is symbolic of the city’s commitment to be an inclusive and diverse community.
This year, the South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services organization celebrated 41 years of service by opening their new office and learning centre on Ellis Street. They offer language classes, plus employment and settlement services to help immigrants and refugees integrate into the community.
This year also focused on social issues from safety to homelessness to addiction. We’ve been working to be proactive, facilitating interested parties and fostering partnerships to address the issues and we are starting to see some positive momentum. We’ve made progress with affordable housing, but the biggest success is the YES (Youth Engagement Strategy) Project. The YES Project is purchasing a location for a youth centre and also received funding for programming.
There are very limited resources and programs to help youth, so if we can help provide direction, support or alternatives to keep kids from making poor choices or a life on the streets, we all benefit. I was asked to help volunteer with a school breakfast program and was surprised to learn the organizer has been volunteering for eight years, even though her child has already graduated high school. I was amazed and humbled by her enthusiasm and dedication to ensure kids who need a healthy start to their day have something to eat. We often talk about a volunteer army in reference to the many events we host, but this is an example of the many kind-hearted individuals going out of their way to benefit others.
Another proud moment is Penticton’s support for so many local causes, particularly those involving kids. The YES Project just started their fundraising program and already cracked $1 million. OSNS broke last year’s telethon record. The medical foundation has raised over $15 million towards the new David E. Kampe tower, and the community came together for several families struck by tragedy or expensive medical procedures.
It shouldn’t just be the holiday season where we are filled with joy, offer goodwill and hope for peace and prosperity for everyone. I hope 2018 is the year where you take time to do your part and give back to make our community a better place. Wishing everyone a happy new year!