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Feature - Angels of Whistler

There are many people who donate their time to make Whistler a better place, here are five of them

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"Families are a lot closer in the Philippines and will help each other out during hard times. In Canada people are a lot more isolated. The suicide rate, for example, is higher in first world countries."

Approximately four years ago Inniger noticed an advertisement asking for volunteers at the Whistler Community Services Society, and she has been heavily involved ever since. She helps sort and distribute grocery bags at the Whistler Food Bank the first and third Monday of every month, and works regularly at the WCSS’s charity shop, the Re-Use It Centre in Function Junction.

"A lot of people think Whistler is a place for the wealthy but it is so expensive to live here and young people in particular do suffer. They make the low wages, pay high rents and lose their jobs during the seasonal downturns. It is also really tough for single mums and dads," she says.

Rising demand for these social services shows the problem isn’t going away.

"This past November we had 137 people lined up at the food bank one day because many still hadn’t started work and had no money to buy food," Inniger says.

She recognizes some uninformed people may believe those who patronize the food bank are lazy and refuse to work, but says checks are in place to prevent abuse of the service and long-term use is discouraged. Instead solutions are sought, such as help with accommodation or employment. Often, she says, it’s just a case of helping point someone in the right direction.

"It’s a big thing just to see that someone cares," she explains.

As a mother, she finds it "heartbreaking to know kids have not had any decent food for a few days… It is the extremes between rich and poor in Whistler that keeps me coming back."

More recently, Inniger has become involved in a new venture: the Whistler Exclusive Philippines Canadian Society. As the name suggests, it is all about helping out the more than 100 fellow Filipinos living within the resort. The society was formed because there were cases of Filipino women being abused while working as domestics for foreign visitors.

Inniger says Whistler has given so much to her family that her efforts are just about giving a little bit back.

"I just feel good about doing it. I don’t have unlimited money to donate but what I can give is time."

Gayle Melenka — WAG volunteer

Time was tight. The van was stuck in snow and I had 20 minutes to reach Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) headquarters to interview volunteer Gayle Melenka before she drove off to Vancouver for three days. I needn’t have worried.