As 2020 comes to an end and we bid farewell to a trying year, I am filled with a mix of emotions. It was one of the most challenging years for so many people, and for so many reasons.
With those challenges comes an opportunity to reflect on the lessons we have learned and the ways we have grown. One thing I have learned is that the spirit of the community has truly been exceptional.
Despite a devastating global pandemic and all of the hardship it has brought, the Cranbrook community and surrounding areas have absolutely proved that we’re stronger together. The community has proved that no matter the circumstances, there’s always something to be grateful for.
As a reporter, it’s my job to write about a myriad of events and happenings in the community. One of the things I am always truly joyous to write about are the positive, feel-good things that locals do, or have done. This year that is especially poignant. People have come together to help one another, to share stories, and to support each other, and it has been an absolute honour to be able to write about it.
At the beginning of the year I transferred from the Kimberley Bulletin to the Cranbrook Townsman. One of my first assignments was covering the Provincial Curling Championships held at Western Financial Place. The event was a huge success. Little did we know that one month later we’d be working from home and running short on toilet paper.
During the first weeks that the pandemic began to escalate in Canada, things seemed fairly hopeful. We perhaps thought it wasn’t such a big deal; there were no cases in the East Kootenay region. That’s when I got the call from Dr. James Heilman, an ER Physician here in Cranbrook. My hand trembled while writing down his words.
“We need to implement these measures today,” he said, speaking of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. “We’re only going to address this if we work together. Our community, local health care system, and all levels up to the federal government need to take this seriously. It has devastated the airline industry. It will continue to impact all kinds of industry as it grows with time. If it continues to grow, there are going to be a lot of hard times ahead, for a lot of people.”
How right Dr. Heilman was. Hard times indeed. Businesses began to close and modify operations. Events were cancelled across the board. Travel became a thing of the past. But this didn’t stop the community from celebrating success, or the little things that bring us joy.
At the beginning of June, St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino celebrated 20 years of golf. They celebrated the fact that they successfully transformed what was a dark past into an encouraging future. They celebrated – with no real, physical celebration.
“We’re so proud of where we’ve come,” Facilities Manager Graham Douglas said at the time, “and we truly look forward to the day that our new normal will fill the entire resort with people again.”
The new normal was settling in here in Cranbrook. The pandemic shed a light on the topic of food insecurity and how many Canadians were struggling. Cranbrook’s programs, however, continued to support the community through it all. The food recovery program embraced the success of food diversion and were luckily able to open the community garden this past summer. The Food Bank saw some hard times, but the community rallied together to ensure they were able to continue to operate. Fundraisers, volunteer efforts and countless hours have been spent ensuring that our people would be fed.
As the Black Lives Matter movement made waves around the globe after George Floyd’s death, Cranbrook and the surrounding area responded. Youth came together to organize solidarity events and marches, and Indigenous communities held ceremonies. Education was at the top of conversation and even the comments on Facebook began to be challenged.
Businesses began to get creative out of necessity. One of the stories that put a smile on my face was the story of the travelling lady bugs from Kootenay Bay. Megan Rokeby-Thomas, owner of Ladybug Coffee at the Kootenay Bay Ferry Terminal had no choice but to close up shop. An art project that started out as just a few rocks painted as ladybugs turned into a province-wide sensation. The ladybugs started showing up far and wide, from Cranbrook to the island, and spread joy wherever they were found.
As summer came and went, so did the fires and smoke. That didn’t stop this community either. Construction began on the new Food Bank facility. Coaches and local athletes were winning awards left, right and centre. I was a busy bee in my garden and I looked forward to every Farm Life article I wrote.
On overdose awareness day (August 31) light was shed on the ongoing overdose crisis here in B.C. A march was held in Cranbrook to remember lives that have been lost to overdose, to raise awareness, and to reduce the stigma of drug addiction and drug-related deaths.
With fall came the warnings of the second wave of COVID-19. We held onto our normalcy as much as possible. Kids were sent back to school and many returned to their offices for work.
In October, for Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wrote a feature about a local breast cancer survivor. Melinda Howard fought the battle against breast cancer twice. Though she may never be “cancer free”, as she said, there were lessons she learned during that time. The main one being to have a positive outlook.
“My take away form this journey is to stay positive,” she said. “Trust me, I have had many days of crying but I beat cancer. It never beat me. Read and talk to people about what they felt and experienced. You are not alone.”
I think those powerful words ring true for so many of us now, as we continue to face the reality of this pandemic.
Remembrance Day was tough. Across the country, Legions were struggling financially and events had to be cancelled. This community proved, yet again, that not even a global pandemic can stop them. A small ceremony was held to ensure that the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice were remembered. I shed a few tears under my mask as I photographed this year’s ceremony.
Another touching story that I recently wrote about is that of two lost kids, who were thankfully found safely. Thanks to the quick thinking of a Salvador Ready Mix driver, and the administrator of the business, two kids who were lost near the gravel pits were safely returned home. A story that touched many hearts, proving that in a small community we are always looking out for one another.
A Cranbrook mother also received international praise this year, looking out for kids who need a movement break while at school. Chantal Marra started a sensory paths business and the idea quickly became popular across the globe. Her paths have since been sold in Italy, Germany, England, the U.K., Austrailia, Spain, the U.S. and across Canada. A video of her son walking the path has been seen and shared over 16 million times.
Even before masks became mandatory across the province, I was impressed with how the community came together for the greater good. Everyone was and is masked up in every store and, for the most part, giving one another space. We smile at one another with our eyes and tip our hats to say hello.
And as the year comes to a close, the holiday season sheds even more light on how this community has come together during tough times.
From Connect Church hosting a reverse Christmas Parade to the Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap taking on the challenge of feeding 400 people on Christmas Day, this community has proven to me that where there is a will, there is always a way.
There are so many other fantastic things that have taken place this year and proven how wonderful this community is, but I will leave you with this for now. Thank you for making this challenging year worth writing about. Thank you for shining a light in otherwise dark times. Thank you for allowing me to share your inspiring, uplifting stories with everyone else. I wish you a safe and happy new year, and I look forward to continuing to share good news with you in 2021.
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