With an embarrassed smile, long-time Whistler resident Jim Cook watched as Whistler Community Services Society executive director Greg McDonnell pulled a red cover from a sign bearing his name over a greenhouse at Spruce Grove last week.
A long-time volunteer in a number of capacities, Cook's tireless efforts have helped establish and grow the WCSS greenhouse program to its current thriving capacity. And for that the program will forever bear his name.
"Jim has been a fabulous and tireless volunteer for the Community Greenhouse program right from the start," said McDonnell. "The amount of work he's done on a volunteer basis - if we had to pay someone for that, it would have really slowed down the progress of the program. The program has grown to a place where there are four greenhouses, 72 boxes, over 300 community members growing food and getting their hands in the dirt and he was a part of all of it."
Cook has spent seven years building the greenhouse infrastructure - putting together the boxes that hold the earth, troubleshooting different water systems, identifying the various soil nutrients needed for plants to thrive in the mountain climate, sorting the tiny, organic seeds given to members and starting hundreds of baby tomato vines from seed each spring.
"It required a bit of experimentation, a bit of work to get it up and running but it's been great to see all the kids come in and get their hands dirty - that's the reward I've gotten from it," said the deferential Cook about the greenhouse project. "It's been a community effort."
Cook was quick to name names, unwilling to leave out anyone who contributed to the program. Municipal horticulture supervisor Paul Beswetherick got a nod, as did greenhouse program manager Kari Mancer, manager of parks operation for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Dave Patterson and Whistler Museum and Archives board member and former president Alex Kleinman. Before Cook could continue he was interrupted by friend and long-term volunteer Lynn Mathews, who got the giggles as she reminded him of the time they spent a messy weekend pouring experimental fertilizer blends into empty bottles.
Cook bought a place in Whistler in 1977, when he was still living and working in Vancouver as a foreman on the waterfront. He retired early in 2000 and soon after moved to Whistler full-time.
"I couldn't wait to get out of there, nobody was listening to me anymore," he joked.
Named 2008 Citizen of the Year by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Cook has also been involved with the Whistler Museum and Archives, Millennium Place and the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group.