On this day which celebrates love in its many forms, from the romantic flowers and chocolates between couples, to the tender unbreakable bonds between parents and children, to the strong bonds of friendship and family. Today we wish to honour a different kind of love. That of a community towards a common goal. The goal of improving the lives of others and thereby making a community more viable and vibrant for all who dwell within.

We hope the following story will be both endearing and inspirational to tell on this day as we, a new generation of community members, pick up the baton on this most worthy cause and breathe energy into this new chapter of creating affordable rental housing on Cortes Island.

Looking Backwards and Forwards:

Last November, we celebrated hearing that our application to add four additional cottages to the existing Seniors Village had passed initial approval by BC Housing. We took a step back, took time and stock to admire the long road paved by the dedication of many committed folks who went before us to make the Seniors Village happen.

On a small island, without either central planning or funds, to pull off a project with the scope of the Seniors Village was a marvel to behold and still is. Ever more so, as the gardens have grown lush and full, and the residents have made stable and loved homes.

We dug a little to find some original history through Lynne Jordan at the Cortes Island Museum & Archives who directed us to this early Howling Wolf article written by Sue Ellingsen in 2008 about the project and its difficult start.

“At the June 1987 meeting of the Old Age Pensioners Organization (OAPO), Don Mainwaring and his partners presented the deed to the CISS property on Beasley Road to the then president, Joan Disney, for the sum of $1.00.

The Cortez Island Seniors Building Society [CISBS a precursor to CISS] was incorporated in June, 1987 — that name was formally adopted because it was the belief of the board that it might be easier to procure funds if the name reflected the specific objective — building.  Sadly this was not the case.  Much effort went into the project particularly in the form of donated materials.  These sat for a number of years before the group conceded that the project was not going to proceed.  Fortunately for CISS the materials were sold before they deteriorated and the proceeds were placed in term deposits.  So, these funds along with other donations and profits from fund raisers await our new plans.  The project might have been delayed but we have to thank those earlier members of OAPO and CISBS for having put us in good stead to proceed now.

With costs having risen drastically in recent years, we find that we are short some $40,000 to $50,000 to complete the site preparation.  This will include project design, clearing, road building, burying of pipes to deliver hydro, telephone and water to each unit, and installation of the septic system.  The Property Development Committee has made a decision on a septic system and work on that will begin soon.  Ralph Nursall was finally able to procure a donation for our ring road of some 150 cubic yards of gravel from the Ministry of Highways, to be delivered for us from their pit on Beasley Road. This work is largely completed. We are most appreciative of this generous donation, of the timely and precise delivery by the Emcon crew, and of all the help John Vosper continues to donate to the project.

A sub-committee of the Property Development Committee, headed by David Rousseau, has spent many volunteer hours designing three different units — bachelor, one bedroom and two bedroom plans — ranging in size from about 500 to 750 square feet.  These plans will be ready soon for viewing by the membership and will be of special interest to those individuals who have indicated an interest in residing in them.

Michael Hoskin has spent hours crunching figures and producing a business plan with the help of David’s cost estimates for labour and materials, and has obtained a commitment from Quadra Credit Union for financing.  We would like to complete the site preparation without borrowing, and are inviting donations to CISS for this purpose.  This will allow us to keep the eventual rents as reasonable as possible.”

The planning for both the medical centre and the six existing seniors cottages started in 2005, the actual construction of the cottages started in 2008, with residents moving in the summer of 2009.

Fast forward ten years, Sue Ellingsen as president of the CISS has continued to be a stalwart supporter of finding ways of housing more seniors of Cortes. David Rousseau and Sandra Wood who were so seminal back then (enabling the original 6 units to be built) are still part of the team, working tirelessly to ensure that this next round of four cottages get built and also
the next 20 units for multigenerational island residents (seniors, families and individuals), which will be built on the newly acquired 51 acres adjacent to the Seniors Village. These new lands now known as Rainbow Ridge were totally paid for through local loans and cash donations from community members. What is apparent, then and now, is that no project of this size gets done without massive community support. After all,

IT TAKES A COMMUNITY TO RAISE A VILLAGE!

So many thanks to all those who came before us, to all who are so dedicated today, and all those who will take the baton and move it forward as we, keep responding to island challenges and community need, because love takes many forms.

Photo Credit: Darshan Stevens Photography