Twas the month before Christmas, the snow was settling heavily on a frozen Whistler landscape and there was no room at the inn. In other words, I had just become a typical Whistler statistic. In the early winter season world of cutthroat house hunting, my pre-arranged accommodation had been sold out to a higher bidder three days before moving in. Things were looking bleak, if not downright unfair.
Then a different kind of Whistler local came to the fore. Offers of places to stay until something else cropped up came left, right and centre, from friends and new acquaintances alike. Moving my belongings to temporary homes also came with unexpected help. Seeing my efforts to clear heavy snow off my van with a snowboard prompted a stranger to come over and start helping, before giving me his snow scraper to keep and disappearing back into the storm.
These are the people who make living here worthwhile.
Whistler isnt the easiest place to get ahead. High rents, low wages, seasonal work cycles, inflated prices and the occasional unscrupulous landlord see to that. But take a glance in the local newspapers and its apparent the high level of community support that is here. Those having trouble finding work can get help at the Employment Centre; people without food can get free hampers from the Food Bank; there is help for the homeless; there are free safe-sex clinics and counselling. Theres also help for victims of criminal activity, support groups for women, a cancer support group, outreach workers for young adults with problems and drug and alcohol abuse counseling, to name but a few.
Usually unadvertised but equally accessible are organizations that will help those lost, injured or in danger. People are paid to operate some of these services but volunteers run the bulk of them.
From most accounts, Whistler boasts more volunteers per capita than most other towns or cities. According to many who lived here in the early days, when Whistler was called Alta Lake, it has always been the case. And the tradition carries on.
So here is a Christmas tribute to those who give of their time, energy and sometimes money to make Whistler a better place, whether through voluntary work, by being good Samaritans or just by helping their neighbour. By putting the spotlight on a handful of volunteers in the arts, search & rescue, community care services, fire fighting and animal welfare, we salute you all.
Jim Crichton volunteer fire fighter with Whistler Fire Rescue Services
The light spilling out from the Whistler fire hall illuminates the snow as the people inside swarm over the vehicles, shouting instructions at each other and preparing equipment. This is not a callout, but one of the monthly full-scale practices conducted by some 45 local volunteer firefighters. Among them is Amaco Construction superintendent and assistant fire chief, Jim Crichton. With 27 years of volunteer firefighting under his belt, Crichton knows the drill better than most. He says there has never been a shortage of helpers, even back in the early days.