Like a spring blossom, the country is beginning to open up and let the sun shine in. By the time Pique's out, we'll know what Saint Bonnie has in store for those of us on the Left Coast and we've already heard from most of the rest of the provinces. There's been some easing off of sheltering in place, some more opening of stores and services, some encouragement to get outside and play... safely.
Regardless of the parameters of the official plan, nothing remotely foreseeable is going to breathe life into Tiny Town. We are victims of our own success:
Whistler = Hospitality
Hospitality = Tourists
Tourists = Travel
Travel = Confidence
Confidence = Progress + Time
What's going to make you feel confident? Confident to go shopping? Confident to walk in and sit down at a restaurant? Confident to head out for the evening with friends to party and shake yer booty?
Whistler will be a lagging indicator of confidence. It'll be a while before we can pick up the threads of our lives and get back to a pale semblance of normal. We won't be the pointy end of the stick. But we'll feel it.
At last count, something north of 80 per cent of Whistler's businesses were shuttered. A handful of restaurants are doing some take out and selling some ingredients. No bars are open. No clubs. Few shops. Neither Whistler nor Blackcomb mountains. Virtually all entertainment has been cancelled or kicked down the road to a date to be announced.
Most Whistleratics are out of work—through no fault of their own. Some have found other means of earning some dough. Some have gone to wherever home is or was. Some will return. Others will never be seen again.
And a lot are suffering. No money for rent, mortgages, utilities, and the other expenses of life.
Whistler's food bank, in normal times, used to provide around 50 bags of food per week. It operated out of a confined space on the second floor of Whistler Community Services Society's building across from WAG.
Now it operates out of the Conference Centre. Easier to provide the requisite distancing. Easier—if that's a word that can be used in this context—to hand out upwards of 500-plus bags of food per week. Some days, people are turned away because the bags prepared for that day have run out. Early.
Ramping up production has been a challenge. But it's been met by tireless workers, some paid, some volunteer.
Providing the funding for that scale of operation has been a challenge, though.
Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) has historically funded its food bank and outreach services from profits generated by the Re-Use-It and Re-Build-It centres. Been to either lately? Of course not. They're closed, too. And that means 80 per cent or more of WCSS's revenue has disappeared.
But the demand continues. For food. For outreach. COVID-19 has not only destroyed jobs. It's assaulted people's mental health. They're depressed. They're anxious. They're watching their dream vanish. They don't know what the future might have in store for them or even if there is a future for them. They're frustrated and far too often, they're taking that frustration out on loved ones. Domestic violence has always been a more or less underground secret in Whistler, but it too has seen a dramatic increase.
As a result of outstanding financial management, some high-profile and low-profile donations and some funding from various levels of government—including municipal—WCSS has the financial resources to continue. But the rate at which it is burning through those funds means the long-range outlook isn't all that long. Certainly not as long as it's going to take to get Whistler back on its feet and paycheques flowing again.
WCSS is the only game in town for the services they provide. No one else runs a food bank. No one else provides outreach services at no cost to the recipients on the same scale. It is the hub for all those services for which there is such great need right now!
So for those who can, now is the time to step up.
The demographics of Whistler have changed remarkably over the past decade or so. The population has aged. Some of this change has been because people are sticking around and growing older. But a lot of it has changed because people have retired to Whistler. Welcome. Quite a few of you don't live paycheque to paycheque. Many of you don't draw a paycheque at all anymore.
But you do have assets. And while those have probably taken a kicking since pandemic became a driving force across world markets, it's unlikely you're lining up at the food bank.
You might have read elsewhere in this week's Pique about the very generous donations from the Kelty Patrick Dennehy and the Szocs Foundations (see page 17). Each are donating $25,000 to WCSS to help fund the good works. They have issued a challenge to the rest of the community to match that funding, to raise another $50,000. When we do, that $100,000 will go a long way toward allowing WCSS to continue the vital work they're doing.
So I'm asking those of you who can to consider making a donation. Many of us contribute to various charities—some to feel good, some for the tax considerations, some because we really believe in and support what those charities do.
WCSS is a registered charity. It is also accredited by Imagine Canada, a certification that is difficult to achieve and means they carry on their operation with the highest standards of accountability and transparency.
While I'm not about to suggest other charitable organizations aren't deserving, now is the time to consider the direct, local impact of your contributions. Nothing is more vital to the recovery of this town than helping our fellow townies get through this. We'll desperately need lifties, servers, cleaners, salespeople—everyone—when we are able to open again.
You can help secure Whistler's future by contributing, by sending a cheque to WCSS, Box 900, Whistler, BC, V0N 1B0 or online at https://mywcss.org/fundraiser. Please make it clear your donation is for the Szocs/Dennehy Community Challenge.
That's the case. That's the proposition. I hate making it because I hate asking people for money for any cause. We all make the decisions we think best. But if you think about this one... well, I'll leave it at that. Thanks for considering and thanks for supporting WCSS this time around.