I am writing in response to a letter submitted by Arthur Reich on December 2 in which he criticized the Salvation Army Santa bus coming to Lake Country to collect donations for the Food Bank in Kelowna. If true, this would no doubt be a contentious issue and one the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce would certainly like to see end.
Further into the letter Mr. Reich goes on to muddy the issue by throwing the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce “under the bus” by implying that the Chamber is taking from, rather than giving to the community. This is unacceptable and obvious that Mr. Reich is completely uninformed about the role the Chamber and its 250 local business members play in Lake Country.
First of all the Chamber has sponsored, managed, and subsidized the shortfall of operational funds that the District and Tourism BC provides to operate the Visitor Centre (VC) on behalf of the community for the last nine years. The Chamber’s volunteers are a dedicated group lead by our volunteer VC manager Gerry Morton. Between them and our Chamber staff we provide professional service to visitors under our agreement with the District and Tourism BC. The Board of Directors continues to support the operation of the VC because it helps the local economy in directing visitors and locals to enjoy our community and all its services and amenities.
The Chamber Board of Directors are all local business owners who volunteer their time and resources, sit on various committees such as Community Issues and the GESS Grad committee, because of their commitment to the community at large. The Chamber has a close relationship with Phyllis and the Food Bank and we commit to give 25 per cent of our silent auction funds from the Business awards event to the Food Bank. This year the cheque is for $ 500. This is from a not for profit organization (the Chamber) whose mandate is to improve the social and economic position of its community.
Additionally, we provide a $ 500 bursary annually to a GESS grad through the sale of 50/50’s at our Business After Hours monthly events. Many of our members are at this time running promotions through raffles and contests in order to fundraise for the Food Bank at this critical time of year. In addition, Linda Wilson, Chamber manager, has recently spent many hours on an application process for a special $ 25,000 grant from the federal government to set up and run a course that will improve community volunteering next year with a response expected in March. Taking rather than giving? Hardly! Our funding comes solely from membership dues.
To add further insult to injury, Mr. Reich also included the Lake Country Art Gallery as being a “taker” when in fact they had achieved the Community Contributor award at this past October`s Business Excellence awards.
Mr. Reich also did not mention that the Rotary Club has been working hard in conjunction with the Mayor and previous Council for the last few years on finding a permanent home for the Food Bank, navigating the levels of government and bureaucracy to make it happen. What about the annual food drive by the Fire Department members and the record number of donations raised this year?
Mr. Reich, your issue (and ours) is with the Salvation Army Santa Bus. Why did you feel compelled to take a swipe at local organizations that do so much for this community? Especially when it seems you have no idea what they do. Stick to the issue at hand and you might not find yourself falling on deaf ears!
President, Lake Country Chamber of Commerce