Canadians are turning their minds these weeks to the importance of people who put everything on the line to keep us safe. From the harrowing events that have taken place in Montreal and Ottawa, to the enduring power of Remembrance Day holds for our community. Gratitude is a beautiful thing.
This season, with thanks to the generous support of VPG Realty Inc, the Dundarave Festival is honoured to celebrate the ways the volunteers of North Shore Rescue have for fifty years been there for us in our darkest hours.
We are blessed to live at the feet of mountains, range upon range of some of the most breathtaking wilderness in the world.
But our mountains are as unforgiving as they are beautiful. If we fail to respect them, the consequences can be dire.
"I run the mountain trails that rise up behind West Vancouver, and have done so for my entire adult life," said VPG's Eric Langhjelm. "I do everything I can to make sure I'm safe. But when I'm up there in the back country I always think about the vital role North Shore Search and Rescue plays in always being ready for us if and when we need help. Our community owes them an enormous debt of gratitude."
"The North Shore Rescue has always been about community," said Mike Danks, NSR Team Leader. "Everyone saw the reality of this at the beginning of the year -- the way everyone rallied around us as we mourned the loss of our leader and inspiration, Tim Jones. It means so much to us to end the year like this with the Dundarave Festival, because it allows us to celebrate the heart and strength and compassion that are deep in the DNA of our community."
An uncommonly beautiful morning at Dundarave Beach, one more sleep away from the Festival's Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night.
It's one thing to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, quite another to have hearts as beautiful as the place we call home.
You could see the radiant heart of our community on Saturday at the Dundarave Christmas Fair. In the middle of a rain storm (that's what the season looks like in our corner of the North Pacific), hundreds of people were jammed into the Festival Longhouse by the time Mayor Mike Smith took the stage. The Mayor called attention to the fact of homelessness in our community, and how it is entirely within our capabilities to make sure no one is left out in the cold.
The proof of his claim was lined up, over a hundred voices strong, behind him. By themselves, the North Shore's Burstin with Broadway choir has raised over $2,100 for the Lookout Emergency Aid Society's North Shore Shelter. Each tree in the Dundarave Festival has its own pledge page, a "cyber tree". Burstin With Broadway has shown its vibrancy and life as a community by lighting up its "cyber tree" a roman candle. This community has by itself brought in 10% of charitable donations to the North Shore Shelter this season. Without singing single bar of a Christmas song — they only do Broadway, it's show tunes all the time — this choir exemplifies the true spirit of Christmas
Borrowing from La Cages aux Folles, the choir affirms "We are what we are, and what we are needs no explaining". It became clear to everyone on Saturday that this includes having hearts as bold and vast as the North Pacific.
Mayor Smith lead us in the magic words that lit up the Festival's 100 Christmas trees, its "forest of miracles"; the gilded youth of the West Van Youth Band lit up the night with brilliant fanfare.
When they ended their set, the Lookout Emergency Aid Society's Executive Director, Karen O'Shannacery, OBC took the mic. She told us the story of a phone call she'd received earlier in the week from a West Vancouver resident, the descendant of a number of generations of West Vancouverites.
"Sally" had lost her home and her children due to her husband's violence. The violence had also triggered a profound anxiety disorder. She was en route to yield to her suffering by taking her own life, when she stopped in at the North Shore Shelter.
"Do you have a better plan for me?" she asked.
The answer they were able to give her was powered by the Festival's Christmas trees. These trees have raised over $100,000, thanks to the generosity of tree sponsors like Burstin With Broadway. The Lookout Society has used this money to fund its transitional support program. While the federal and provincial governments give money to the Shelter for emergency assistance, rescuing people from our beaches, ravines and streets, they provide no funding to allow these most vulnerable members of our community to get back on their feet. The Festival's Christmas trees do this.
Karen told us the Shelter was able to place "Sally" in its transitional support program, where she received the loving, professional support to heal and return to herself. She had phoned Karen to say that her children had been returned to her, that she had built a new career, and secured a new home of her own. "Sally", like Burstin With Broadway, shines with a heart as big and bold as the North Pacific.
From Mayor Smith's courage and candour in naming the truth of homelessness, to this choir and one woman's astounding strength, we saw the beauty of our community at the Dundarave Christmas Fair.
West Van Fire Fighters Plant a Forest of Miracles: 100 Trees in 29 Minutes
In so many corners of the world, and our country, we witness a state of affairs that can be completely demoralizing. From a new generation of super storms laying waste coastal settlements as diverse as Manhattan and Tacloban, to abuses of power that show no regard for the rule of law or moral seemliness, it may seem that the prospects of living secure in a deeper, richer humanity are receding. The best way to answer any temptation to despondency is to look closely at the details of what's actually working, to find the heroism and valour that endure and shine out in the darkness. We don't have to look very far.
West Vancouver's firefighters descended on Dundarave Beach this morning like an angelic platoon. In 29 minutes they transformed the beach, planting 100 grand firs -- the most spectacular trees the Festival's ever seen -- in 29 minutes. They took us from bare ground to a forest of miracles at a rate of 3.4 minutes per tree.
Great Canadian Landscaping helped in a big way, prepping the site the morning before. Before they could dig the holes for the trees, the Great Canadian crew had to use blow torches to thaw the sod.
Here's why the planting of the trees was heroic. The morning the ground was thawed out and the holes dug, we saw a man who had been sleeping the night at Dundarave Beach. He had no socks and not much of anything else, but he managed to survive a minus 4 degree night.
In a powerful way, the first responders to the fact of his homelessness, and the fact of the growing numbers of our friends, neighbours and family on the North Shore who are or are at risk of homelessness, come from the ranks of West Vancouver's firefighters.
They have yet again, and again with a spirit of camaraderie shot through with a pragmatic joy, helped us put into the ground a forest of Christmas trees that has to date raised over $105,000 for the Lookout Emergency Aid Society's North Shore Shelter. In less than half an hour they have shown the true spirit of our community, and the bright spirit of the coming Christmas season, by making sure all of us have the means to make sure no one is left out in the cold.
We owe them more than our thanks.
It is in our hands now to be heroic in our own right. Join the Festival's tree sponsors for the Dundarave Christmas Fair -- the most epic Christmas tree decorating party in Canada -- Noon to Dusk, Saturday November 30th. Give generously to the Lookout Emergency Aid Society North Shore Shelter by making donations to celebrate your favourite tree. Click here to make it happen. You don't have to be Superman to end homelessness. You just have to have the heart of a hero, like the West Van firefighters who this morning brought a forest of miracles to Dundarave Beach.
Our community would not be possible without our veterans.
This much was clear as we watched West Vancouver's veterans march past the Cenotaph this morning: We hold our democracy as a direct result of the generations of Canadians from every walk of life who gave their lives to make us free.
In remembering all veterans, and everyone who has sacrificed to build our country, we must make ourselves mindful of our duty never to break faith with them. Honouring their lives in this way - faithfully - will transform our lives and allow our generations to be counted with theirs, joining us together in the work of building a Canada that is free, democratic and just.
On the largest scale, this means making sure we cultivate a political culture that calls out the best in us, and in those whom we elect to represent us. The blood shed by our veterans to defend our vocation as a nation to democracy must be answered by our constant vigilance and our good faith. Citizen to citizen, our work must be to discover and secure the common good, and this task becomes more indispensable as the challenges facing our community increase.
On the human scale, we can get a sense of the moral urgency of the challenges we're facing by looking at the ways veterans have been cared for of the Lookout Emergency Aid Society. Veterans were among the first to make use of the beds afforded by Lookout when it opened its doors in 1971 in Gastown. Veterans, and indeed increasing numbers of seniors in their 70s, 80s and 90s, are continuing to be served by Lookout's North Shore Shelter. The risk they face is considerable, as the North Shore continues to struggle with a housing crisis.
But this is not a risk they need bare in isolation. What we find consistently in the Dundarave Festival is that the same largeness of spirit that allowed veterans to fight for us remains very much alive in all of us. From West Vancouver's Mayor and Council to families, community groups and businesses of every stripe, we are answering their sacrifice with a powerful labour of love to make sure that no veteran, no senior, or anyone else is left out in the cold.
If you're in the first flight of people who have claimed a tree for this season's Dundarave Festival, stand tall today. Thank you for sharing in the beautiful work of keeping our community true and strong, free and loving. If you've not yet claimed your tree, now's the time to do it. There's glory enough for all, but we are now down to our final dozen trees. Click here to claim yours today:
By Karen O'Shannacery, OBC and Michael Markwick
This season brings home the fact of the impact we have on each other, and how ultimately irreplaceable we are to each other.
Al Mitchell was an architect of the Lookout Society as we know it today. He passed away suddenly, leaving many of us struggling with mourning. But all of the emotions and memories that keep welling up in this moment bring us back to the main thing about Al and what he taught us: no one is disposable, each of us irreplaceable, and we have to do everything in our power to love, serve and nurture each other.
If Al was walking among us today, he would be challenging us to rise to our best, to continue to take on the challenges, helping people who often have no where to go, or anyone to support them. This exhortation is especially important to keep in mind as we enter Homelessness Action Week.
Over his twenty seven years of devoted service, Al played a life transforming role in the lives of thousands of the most vulnerable members of our community. Inwardly, he anchored this in his faith, and outwardly it was easy for everyone to see in his tender compassion the depth and richness of his spiritual life. Al also advocated for change in the social service system, to both reduce the risk of people becoming homeless or being put at risk in the first place. His work was bigger than the work of the Lookout Society because he lived his spirituality and beliefs morning to night, committed to doing what was right, no matter what the obstacle, in the eyes of God and fellow human beings. This is an important truth, even for those of us who have no religious beliefs or affiliations, because it was such a vital part of Al and everything he did. It's an important truth to hold on to, especially as so many of us are wrung out with grief at this moment.
For Al, this translated into two core principles that have become basic to our work. First, he believed in making sure everything we do helps put the client back in control of his or her life and well being. Al's generosity and caring was for the whole person, and in practice this resulted in Lookout's golden rule: "When in doubt, the client is considered right." We work with people who have been for much of their lives or all of their lives rejected, betrayed, and stripped of the companionship that is essential for survival. While it might seem more efficient to build an institutional culture that just kept telling them what to do, Al taught us that we should always guard against the idea that we know what's best. He had a remarkable gift of talking to anyone, opening himself up to understand and connect with the person in front of him. And so it was never a mechanical thing for Al to believe in the client. The client was a human person, and our role was to do whatever was in our power to make sure this person could always decide what was in his or her best interest.
Very often this meant starting with the urgent necessity of making sure the client would actually survive the night. This was Al's second core principle. Ending homelessness was something we had to do structurally, by correcting the mistakes we're making as a society that result in putting people out on our streets and in our parks, but it was something we had to do personally, one individual at a time. Al was a life saver. To do this, he'd call us to set see in context the big, insurmountable challenges that were pushing our clients to the brink. Those challenges would have to be addressed, but the most important thing was to make sure this person survived the night. Our job is to make sure, for each person in front of us, tomorrow could in fact be another day.
The Lookout Society would likely be a very different, and much diminished, organization if Al Mitchell did not exist. There are many people alive and thriving today who would have perished if it were not for Al's work, and the way he called us to do our work with intelligent compassion. To honour his life, we're going to raise a Christmas tree for Al at the Dundarave Festival. Al had a strange obsession. He loved trains, everything about them. Al's tree will be on Dundarave Beach within ear shot of the BC Rail line. Join us there on Saturday November 30th as we cover it with trains and light it up at dusk for Al. If you'd like to get things started right away, click this link to "decorate" Shelter Al's tree with a charitable donation to the Lookout Emergency Aid Society.
We are now entering Homelessness Action Week. Let us do so in loving memory of Al Mitchell. Let this bring a new strength in our hands, a renewed clarity of purpose and a deeper determination to end homelessness in our community. Our friend, one way or another, is still with us and he calls us to the better angels of our nature, a loving, energetic and healing solidarity with the people who are pushed to the margins of our society.
Our forests have always been the root and crown of our community. For tens of thousands of years, from the first Coast Salish peoples who drew life from these lands to the settlers whom they first welcomed, our forests have been the mantle over the rich, at times troubled, and profoundly human story of our lives together. It is the story of our one, human, love set against the vast, primordial mystery of these trees. Our story.
The forest of trees at the Dundarave Festival is rooted in this heritage. From the heroes who plant them — a small army of West Vancouver firefighters — to the hundreds of people who decorate them, these trees become a forest of light, a beacon of hope. Through the five weeks of the holidays, they shine with the best spirit of the season and the true spirit of our community.
Some families and friends use their trees as the West Van alternative to the "tail gate party", collecting everyone they love for tree decorating parties at the Dundarave Christmas Fair. Some families and friends use their trees to honour the passing of an irreplaceable loved one. Their trees bear witness to a love death cannot overpower. Businesses use their trees to affirm the powerful role their enterprises play in contributing to the common good, building sustainably our prosperity. Schools, universities, community groups, parliamentarians, and the District of West Vancouver use their trees to affirm the values that allow us to thrive as a free, democratic and compassionate society. Each tree shines with a story of its own, and standing together they unite us.
But they do more than this. These trees, against all probability, have become a powerful engine of change because they are ending homelessness in our community. At a time when the demands on the Lookout Society's North Shore Shelter have reached an unprecedented level, as more seniors and more young adults turn to the shelter for help than ever before, these trees have allowed us the power to answer their needs with intensive, sustained, and professional care. The charitable donations raised by the Dundarave Festival's trees, over $105,000 through the past four seasons, have allowed the Shelter to double its transitional support staff. This is an area that had been a perennial bottle neck in the operations of the Shelter. While governments provide funding to rescue the homeless from our ravines, streets and beaches, they provide no funding for the all important transition from homelessness to stable lives. The answer to this dilemma, to the challenge of allowing the most vulnerable people in our community to claim their rightful places at the heart of our community, has come from your generosity through the Dundarave Festival's trees.
We've just put out the first call for tree sponsors in the Festival's 2013 season. (If you missed it, you can find it here.) There are one hundred trees on offer at Dundarave Beach. Within the first hours of this announcement, ten percent of the trees were claimed - and most of them by people who are making this their first season at the Dundarave Festival. This is a testimony to the way our forests call us to a deeper humanity. Be sure to claim your tree today, and join us as we let our humanity, our one love, shine in one hundred trees.
Our Dad thought this would just be a story to pass on – but the following spring – who showed up on the chimney (not Santa) but Wilbur and this year he even brought a mate to share in the feast – how special now there was two.
Every Christmas tree in the Dundarave Festival's has a story to tell. The Edmonson's Family Tree tells the true story of an uncommon friendship.
By Debby Fjoftoft
The first part of our story is “Grannie’s Bear”. Teddy Bears held significant meaning for our Mom Betty. In 1987 Betty was hospitalized for 50 days and made a “miraculous” recovery. While in the hospital, we hung a poster full of bears. All of her surgeons, doctors and nurses came to visit her, with tears of joy and amazement, of her recovery. They all signed the poster when they visited her hospital room and thus the love of bears began. When our Mom left the hospital – our Dad gave her a gold teddy bear pendant that she wore from that day on – it symbolized strength, life and love. The shape of the ornament is a replica of her special pendant.
The second part of our story is about “Wilbur” the Great Blue Heron.
Our Dad Al loved animals. He and his Wife Betty fed numerous birds, ducks and squirrels in and around the pond at their home in North Vancouver. They named each of the “regulars” – especially Sam the Squirrel - who used to come into their house if the door was left open just looking for the food. One day a Great Blue Heron arrived in the pond and Al was intrigued. So he went out to the pet store and started to purchase goldfish to put in the pond. Well, it worked and the heron came back every day to feed. And so it became a regular trip to Dundarave for the Seawall walk in the morning and onward to the pet store to buy goldfish to bring home for the heron. The goldfish became expensive and the pet shop owner began to become curious as to what Al was doing with all these goldfish daily. Also I guess Al was feeling a bit guilty – being an animal lover and sacrificing all the goldfish and the heron had quite an appetite. So Al knew that he had to change his plan because now the heron came everyday and depended on our Dad for food. And of course, like all the others, Al knew that he needed a name – so “Wilbur” he became.
Al began to purchase frozen bait herring for Wilbur to eat but he did not seem to like it at first “Well Betty - maybe it doesn’t seem real being frozen - we need to do something” said Al. So he started thawing it in the microwave and Wilbur seemed to like this. So continued the relationship between Al and Wilbur and every morning upon Al rising from bed he would lean out the window and call “Wilbur – Wilbur – Wilbur” and here would come this large bird flying over and would land on the carport in front of our parents’ condo. Everyone was amazed at the attraction between the man and the bird – even our Mom whose microwave now smelled constantly of fish! The first year was fun and when the bad weather came – Wilbur left for warmer temperatures. Our Dad thought this would just be a story to pass on – but the following spring – who showed up on the chimney (not Santa) but Wilbur and this year he even brought a mate to share in the feast – how special now there was two. The relationship with Wilbur strengthened as Al’s health deteriorated. They met ritually for more than 5 years – amazing all around them.
Al became quite ill and ended up in hospital and daily our Mom Betty would attempt to continue the relationship with the bird. Wilbur would come every day but would not respond to Betty and did not touch the herring she so lovingly thawed for him. Soon Al returned and all went back to normal with Wilbur and the unlikely friendship continued. Al became weaker and could not get down the stairs as frequently as he wanted and Wilbur stopped coming to visit. We were all saddened by this – especially Al. But the Great Blue Heron became a symbol in our lives. Well, Wilbur did return, the day our Dad read his Will and Testament to us, Dad’s heron made a cursory “fly-by” the condo but did not stop for long. He just came to say goodbye and to show respect for the man that looked after him for many years.
Soon Al passed away and his Wife Betty continued to go to Dundarave for daily walks and every time she saw a “Wilbur” at the beach she would feel the presence of her husband and smile for the story she had inside. We had a bench installed under their favourite tree at Dundarave.
15 years later my mom Betty passed as well and the bench was renewed and her name was added to the plaque. My parents love of family and friends was so strong and always included so many individuals who maybe did not have a place to go on Christmas (much like the animals for so many years) my parents cared for everyone. The plaque reads “This a bench for friends to rest cause it’s the place we love best – Al & Betty Edmondson & Family”.
So in their honour – we have donated to the Dundarave Festival and its charity “Lookout Emergency Aid Society”. Mary one of the festival coordinators was so inspired by our story that she assigned us the tree closest to our parent’s bench so that we can celebrate the two together. My sister and I lovingly designed, cut and painted each ornament on the tree. Please come down and see the trees they are a beautiful sight to behold and so many have their own special story to tell.
By Gwendoline Allison
It was a glorious day on Saturday, and what better way to enjoy the bright sun than to head to the beach at Dundarave for the second day of free concerts, the Dundarave Nativity and Paddle Song, presented as part of the Dundarave Festival of Lights.
If there was one phrase to describe the day it was “a community in action”:
1. performers, artists, volunteers and service providers, all people from our community, joining together and sharing their skills, talents and histories for the enjoyment of others;
2. performers offering support, encouragement and gratitude to one another; and
3. a whole community raising money to end homelessness in our community.
I arrived as the preparations were beginning. Doug from Wild Coast Productions was there, setting up our longhouse and the sound system for our performers. Tim Lack built a lattice shelter in the gazebo for the Dundarave Nativity, to house that astonishing piece of art while we enjoy its presence on our beach.
Michael, Mary, Sofia, Brad, Tim, Aaron, Bill and Jean, and the Sheppards all arrived to set up the Nativity. The Dundarave Nativity is an extraordinary West Vancouver tradition. Several years ago, master carver Bill Seminoff took on the project of restoring the Nativity. Bill took the original pieces (Mary and the baby Jesus, Joseph, an angel, a shepherd, a king and a sheep), stripped off the lead paint which covered them and refinished them with a paint that will allow our children to touch the pieces.
TimberWest Forest Products, through the generous intervention of Tony Petrina and Paul McElligott, donated two raw logs to Bill to carve new pieces. With Nick Sheppard, they hauled the two tons of soaking wet cedar up from the beach and stored them in Nick’s workshop at Cedar Coast Fence Ltd. As the logs dried out, Bill set about carving three new pieces, a donkey and two kings; and the new pieces are magnificent.
We had the great privilege at the Festival’s second Saturday of free concerts on Dundarave Beach of unveiling the last of the new pieces: a king, Caspar, who has taken his place in the Nativity. Please take the time to come down to the beach and enjoy Bill’s creations.
The Dundarave Nativity and Paddle Song Saturday kicked off with Elder Wendy Charbonneau of the Squamish Nation. Elder Wendy is a direct descendant of Chief George Capilano, who welcomed Captain Vancouver and Captain Cook to our shores. As has become the festival tradition, Elder Wendy welcomed the festival and gave it her blessing. On behalf of the festival, she offered her profound gratitude to Bill Seminoff for his work, and she spoke of her childhood memories of her granny and great granny seeking out nativities to visit with her.
Elder Wendy bade us all “eyes”, which means “peace” in Squamish. She sang three songs, including her world-famous Paddle song, sung with Sister Denise, Elder Wendy’s companion in the canoe. Elder Wendy ended by leading a procession from the gazebo through our forest of trees and into the longhouse where our first band, the West Vancouver Adult Pops Band, was in place and ready to start.
The West Vancouver Adult Pops Band was founded in 1931. Its members were parents of children who played in the West Vancouver Youth Band. The parents decided that they wanted to play music too, so formed their own band. Under their conductor, Tak Maeda, they meet once a week at the West Vancouver Community Centre to play music and enjoy other’s company. The band played a set of well-known Christmas tunes to get us in the mood.
As the band played, other performers came in to watch and support their fellow performers. That continued throughout the day. Michael and Mary Markwick were everywhere, ensuring that the day went smoothly. Sofia and Brad Kennedy worked non-stop, decorating trees and ensuring the lights would come on again, with their trusty volunteer Tyron of the Maker's Body Boot Camp. Staff from Whole Foods served hot soup (Broccoli Cheddar this week – can’t wait to see what’s on offer next week) and hot cider. Staff from the Lookout Shelter lead by the shelter's manager Linda Fox came to support the festival and share their experiences and insight into the problem of homelessness in our community. We are all grateful for the commitment of all our volunteers.
Our next performers were the Lawn Dogs, a bluegrass band from Bowen Island. The Lawn Dogs comprise four friends who gather in their local pub and play music. From their impromptu jam sessions, the Lawn Dogs emerged. They are a fixture on the local music scene and can often be found in the Red Lion on a Tuesday night. For me, bluegrass is an art form that bears witness to lives lived in harsh conditions. It was entirely appropriate therefore to hear such beautiful harmonies while contemplating the harshness of homelessness. It also served as a call to action.
The Lawn Dogs were cheered enthusiastically by our next performers, Dogwood and Dahlia, returning to the Dundarave Festival this year. Dogwood and Dahlia are an indie folk band of three young performers, who play beautiful music (harmonised vocals, guitar, banjo and double bass). They hail from North Vancouver and Langley, and are now based in White Rock. I expect we will hear great things from them in the future. I know I will be hearing a lot from them since my twelve year old daughter bought their CD.
Dogwood and Dahlia sang a set of their own material, and then were joined by local music legend David Newberry. David joined them in playing their music, then Dogwood and Dahlia returned the compliment by joining David in playing some of his songs: a collaboration borne from mutual respect. The four performers sang a gorgeous, soft version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. I hope to see that recorded in the future.
David, of course, does double duty at the festival. In addition to being a star attraction as an award-winning performer, David also works at the Lookout Shelter as a community liaison.
Dogwood and Dahlia ceded the longhouse to one of the festival’s traditional draws: the Bowen Island Black Sheep Morris Dancers. The Black Sheep are committed performers and supporters of the festival. They have been with us for years, and often perform on multiple days. Once again, the Black Sheep brought their raucous enthusiasm and talent, and showed us just what the Old English got up to during the long, cold, dark winters. They will join us again on December 22.
The concert closed out with Wednesday at Ernie’s, a large band of local performers. Like our opening performers the West Vancouver Adult Pops Band, Wednesday at Ernie’s is a collection of parents of past and present West Vancouver Youth Band members. The parents rightfully thought their children should not get all the fun, so they formed their own band. About 28 of them had us all dancing at the beach as the Christmas tree lights came on at dusk.
All in all, our day was one of our community gathering to appreciate our talents and to support one another. Our day was made better by our funding from Heritage Canada. That funding is vital to our ability to provide a shelter for our performers and audiences in the Dundarave Festival Longhouse and Dundarave Nativity Pavillion, our amazing sound system and a small honorarium for our performers.
Most importantly, throughout the day, we continued to raise funds for the Lookout Shelter. The shelter staff were busy taking donations from performers and spectators, and as the festival wound up for the day, we were inundated by people asking how they can donate. The answer is online, at this website, and on the next two Saturdays at the festival itself.
I know what I will be doing next Saturday. I invite you to join me at the beach at Dundarave for another day of free concerts.
Without a Festival like this, we couldn't have a 'society'.
By Michael Markwick
It was a bold goal, to commit the West Vancouver Centennial season of the Dundarave Festival of Lights to "end homelessness joyfully."
I first noticed him as we set about the final preparations for the kick off of the Dundarave Christmas Fair, a monumental task made effortless by the Festival's stalwart friends at Wildcoast Productions. He was soaked through to the skin and huddled away from the rain under what coverage the concession building at Dundarave Beach allowed. The sight of him stopped me in my tracks.
There were joyful teams of people just down the slope from us decorating a record 100 Christmas trees, everyone of them playing a role in the work of ending homlessness. Families, community groups, a strong contingent from Capilano University's School of Communication, businesses all busily at work despite the rain, some with golf canopies and ample supplies of hot chocolate.
And this man, having slept on the beach the entire night, was a world away.
A seventy-five year old woman had been sleeping through the autumn on Ambelside Beach. Our friends in the West Van Fire Department advise us there are people sleeping in the remote reaches of Lighthouse Park, deep in Cypress Mountain. The Lookout Society's North Shore Shelter reports more and more of our elderly friends and neighbours, the people who built our community, and increasing numbers of young adults, the people who are the future of our community, are turning to the Shelter for help. We do not have accurate data about housing insecurity of families on the North Shore, but there is evidence to suggest women and children are particularly vulnerable in the event of violence and abuse.
If the trees were not being decorated that day, and Dundarave Beach had been left desolate for the rains to claim it, this man might not have survived another night of exposure. But as he doodled on a newspaper and the trees were decorated below him, four staff from the North Shore Shelter arrived to put their best foot forward in the Festival Longhouse. They went up to the concession stand to talk to our friend. He had no idea the Shelter existed. Within half an hour he accepted their offer of a bed in the Shelter and a drive to it.
Later on in the day, and I had not told him about this turn of events, Mayor Mike Smith spoke in the Festival Longhouse. "Homelessness is a problem in our community," he said "and we are committed to working together to end it."
The trees in this season's Dundarave Festival are spectacular in their own right. But what makes this Festival unlike any other is the depth of humanity, the courage and joy they represent. The Christmas trees in this season of the Dundarave Festival, unlike any other in its twenty-one year history, individually and in a centennial forest shine with the glowing heart of West Vancouver at 100.
We'd never pick favourites, but special mention has to be made here of the colossal heart of that colossal community choir, Burstin' With Broadway. Their online cyber tree is shining with over $1400 (and counting) in charitable donations to the North Shore Shelter.
Their donations add to the over $125,000 the Dundarave Festival has raised over five seasons for the North Shore Shelter. This funding has allowed the Shelter to double its transition support staff, tackling an area for which there is no funding from the federal or provincial governments. Because of the generosity of communities like BWB, and all of the Festival's tree sponsors, the homeless in our community now receive more intensive, foscussed and successful support than they have ever received before. When you consider the fact that it costs taxpayers between $55,000 and $135,000 a year to keep someone on the street, using the Dundarave Festival's Christmas trees to help people find secure housing and healthy lives is the right, just and beautiful thing to do in so many ways.
To borrow the words of one BWB member, we could not have a society without festivals like the Dundarave Festival of Lights. Click the "SHOW YOUR LOVE" button to visit our secure online donation page. Share the love; you will receive immediately a charitable tax receipt by email, your donation will go straight to work in ending homelessness joyfully.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.