Rotarians are universally applauded for good deeds and hard work on behalf of worthy causes, but even a committed Rotarian can go above and beyond. Whistler's Doug Deeks fits that description for his ongoing work with the Skatin First Nations to provide different kinds of support to the small and remote communities between Mt. Currie and Harrison.
Partly in honour of this work Deeks was recently presented with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal by Lieutenant Governor Steven Point. The medals were created to honour the Queen's 60-year reign by recognizing contributions and achievements of Canadians.
Deeks said he first became involved with the Skatin through Jill Ackhurst, a Rotarian and community volunteer who passed away in 2004.
"She got quite involved in a wellness program there, working with nurses and women in the community, and that's how I first got to know them," said Deeks of the Skatin. "From there it just built up."
Some of the work that Deeks has undertaken in partnership with the Skatin includes providing books to the school library and textbooks to teachers, as well as computers and software. He has also helped to provide supplies ranging from paper and pens to sewing machines, and helped to build a playground in the community.
Continuing Ackhurst's health and wellness work, Deeks also led Rotary in providing food to the school's student breakfast and lunch programs, and sporting equipment like basketballs, soccer balls and nets, floor hockey equipment and more.
At Christmas, Deeks and the Rotary club collect presents to give to the children in Skatin, and during the winter they invite school groups to the resort where they work with partners like Whistler Blackcomb to provide access to the mountain and Tube Park, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler to provide passes to use the pool at Meadow Park.
For every contribution, Deeks humbly credits others for stepping up in a "typically Whistler" way.
"We pull it together," he said, providing the example of the recent donation of sewing machines to the school. "It's from being part of the community and knowing what some people do, such as the quilting club. You spread the word and before you know it — it's typically Whistler, you put a call out for sewing stuff and all of a sudden you're getting boxes of sewing material on your doorstep. We also found a local resident here who owns a sewing machine company in Vancouver — he heard what we were doing and the next thing he's offering me two brand new sewing machines."
The playground project was especially big, but once again Deeks said the community came through.
"It would have been impossible, but the resources and the spirit of the community is great and it came together. And when all this playground equipment finally arrived, we had to put it somewhere — and God bless Sabre (Tool and Equipment Rentals), they were able to store it at Mons Road until we could get organized and truck the stuff up to Skatin. And again Sabre loaned us a truck. Everyone in the community is very helpful."
Deeks said the Rotary Club of Whistler tries to work quietly, and forms partnerships and relationships that make it possible to get things done. Rather than drop off items to the Skatin, they've been building relationships and working with the community so when a need develops they can work together to meet it.
In one example, the Skatin needed to provide emergency beds for about 10 young people in the community and asked Rotary if they knew where they could get beds, bedding and clothing.
"I just spread the word around through the Rotary, and within a couple of days we had 10 beds, 10 mattresses, 10 sets of sheets and all the rest, and had shipped it up to Skatin," said Deeks.
Deeks has been with the Rotary Club of Whistler for 15 years, and has been working with the Skatin for at least eight of those years. Like other projects he's been involved in with the group, he said it's always rewarding.
"That's just the way the community is," he said. "You quietly spread the word, and it just happens. People here are very generous."