Monday, November 17, 2014

Celebrating the Generosity of the Small Town

Few people get to experience what I saw last night. Let me back up first. We've only lived in Bassano for two and half months, and we are fitting into the community quickly. My wife has been invited to two different book clubs that are exclusively for women. Sorry men, I guess we don't read. But that's beside the point. Our girls are waitresses at the Roadside Grill, so they meet lots of people passing through on the TransCanada, or the locals for the daily coffee. It feels like we are out at least two nights a week doing something in the community, whether it's a meeting, making pies at the Presbyterian Church, or helping out with the Fall Turkey Supper. That's a far cry from our experience in Prince Albert, where we spent most nights at home, and rarely participated in community events. Not sure why, other than there's over 40 thousand people living in the city and no way to meet or know everyone like we're starting to do in a small town like Bassano.

So when Daryl and Carrie Lassiter invited Janice and I to a fundraising event at the community hall Saturday evening, we were expecting the regular Bassano evening of lots of food and visiting. When Carrie asked, we were like "Sure, sounds like fun." We had no idea what we were in for because it was the Bassano Arena Fundraiser. And if you have never been to one of these events in Bassano, you really are missing out.

Around the perimeter of the community hall were items that were going to be a part of the live auction, other items were displayed for the silent auction, and another group of items for bucket draws. The quality of the items were impressive and not cheap either. Janice and I spied out an outdoor fire pit donated by Graham Douglass, and she really wanted it. I was told to break out the cheque book, because we were going home with it. We'd been to silent auctions in PA before, so if it was anything like what we've been to before it was going to be a fun evening. We never expected the night to turn into a wild, fun filled extravaganza it became. Wow. The evening of prizes and auctioning began with Jason Goudie winning the $600 dollar 50/50 prize and donating it back to the arena fundraiser.

The auctioneer opened the bidding on a load of gravel valued at $250, and it went for $550. And things heated from there. A homemade quilt went for $16,500. The fire pit, we were eyeing up, went for $3500, well out of our price range. So no fire pit for us. A snowmobile jacket went through three or four rounds of auctions, because the people that bought it for $1500, donated it back and had people bid on it again. When it was all done, I'm sure it went for over $5000. With the evening over, this event that would have been happy to raise at least $75,000, raised $129,000 for the arena.

People can say whatever they want about small towns. Yes, I've lived in small town Saskatchewan before and it could be cliquey. You either were from the community by rite of passage because your grandparents were pioneers or you were an import from away. The only time people got together was when there was a funeral, and everyone showed up, especially for the food. I'm not saying Bassano is like this, because I haven't been here long enough to see it, but what I saw last night was a community that uniquely cares for more than the arena, they care about the youth of Bassano. They didn't just raise $129,000 for a building, this was for the kids.

I'm told this what Bassano folks do. Last year the community held a benefit concert last year for the Siksika Flood victims and raised $30,000 for families displaced from their homes. The community also raised money for the swimming pool  and the Zamboni, as well. What this says to me is that Bassano is a community of generosity. It has a rich history of giving when it counts. This speaks loudly to the quality of a community when they can come together for an evening and give so generously. My wife and I feel particularly blessed to have the opportunity to come to Bassano and hopefully become a part of this rich heritage for a long time to come. Coming from a city where crime, drugs, violence is on the rise, we have never felt safer than we do in Bassano. And people look out for one another. Last weekend, we had to run back up to Prince Albert and two different neighbours removed the snow from our driveway while we were away.

So with that experience on Saturday evening, we want to extend that opportunity to practice the virtue of generosity in the school with our students. This year we will be collecting winter coats, mitts, toques, and boots that we will be donating the Innovations Project in Brooks. If you have spare used items that are taking up space in your closet and you would like to help out folks in need, please go through those closets and send the items to the school. We would appreciate you helping us with this. There's no need for kids to be cold because they don't have the proper attire. Besides this seems like the right community to ask such a thing.

We are also adopting some families that we can help out for Christmas. This is another Innovation project. In the past, we have helped out 4 families each year, and if we have enough interest, we could help more families have the kind of Christmas that many of us are fortunate to experience. You can adopt a family and either buy gifts for them or donate money. All this is done anonymously. If you want to participate, please call the school and get more information about how you can participate or call Kathy Irwin, Innovations Project directly at (403) 363-1790, or email,

If you missed out participating in the arena fundraiser, these are just some ways you can help out at the school and extend our virtue of generosity throughout the community and beyond. Let's make generosity a part of our growth strategy.

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