Did you know that key amenities in our community came about mainly through local citizen efforts? Volunteers have been contributing to resources for the community for decades.
“Many of the best or most important things we all enjoy or need in Squamish – from the hospital to trails & events were spearheaded by local pioneers, leaders, and visionaries. Rob Weys, a longtime local Squamish business owner, said. “Soccer fields, baseball diamonds, curling rink, golf course, food bank, loggers sports ground, legacy sports park, climbing, trails, and more owe their existence to labour, love, and dedication of community members.”
Local volunteers brought the Squamish General Hospital, Squamish Airport, Brennan Park, and surrounding fields to our community.
The airport was built by members in our community such as Patrick Donald, in the late 1960s and was managed by volunteers until the early 2000s.
“In the beginning, we were granted the management of the airport. So we had 52 acres, and there were 25 of us. Currently, we lease about 2.5 acres. The club now has just over 50 members,” Donald said in an interview with the Squamish Chief.
Dr. LaVerne Kindree was the first doctor in Squamish. And Dr. Kindree’s wife and right hand, RN Norma Kindree, was a huge driving force in the hospital’s success.
Norma still lives in Squamish today and chatted to us about the dedication and hard work that came with all the fundraising to get the hospital going.
The entire community came together to raise money for the hospital. Norma said that everyone in town, including children, came together to help.
“From 1950-1952, our fundraising included “Klondike Night”, where we had dancing girls. We also had “Turnabout Night,” where I was the doctor and he [Dr. Kindree] was the nurse,” Norma said. He got dressed up in my nursing outfit and went out in the shed and made curly hair out of yellow cedar shavings with a nurse’s cap on. We also had bake sales, afternoon teas, bridge nights, fashion shows, one lady sold all of her chickens and donated the money, raffles which kids helped with, bingo nights, garden parties, white elephant stand-where you would bring your piece of junk that you didn’t want and people bought the junk and took it home. Just amazing.”
Norma said that the community enjoyed raising money and connected the Squamish community even more than it already was.
“We raised what we thought was a lot of money. We had so much fun fundraising. Just so much absolute fun doing this.”
The Squamish community also reached out to nearby communities such as Pemberton and Vancouver and asked to help.
“Pemberton and Creekside helped out as well. We sent out over 2,000 letters asking various companies in Vancouver asking for help. This took a lot of work. Oh my god. I have a list downstairs that is page after page after page where I sent letters out.”
The nearby communities were supportive and proud of the Squamish community for all their hard work raising funds in creative ways.
“Everyone was amazed by the town of Squamish, we had 1500 people, but there were a lot of hardworking, talented people,” Norma said.
The community dedicated so much of their time and effort to making the hospital because they knew how badly needed a hospital was for the community. If someone became seriously ill, it meant a long trip to Vancouver to get medical attention.
Norma said that the community didn’t just step up with fundraising; people donated machinery, art, for the hospital once it was up and running.
Examples include a local carpenter who made and donated the first delivery table; the camera club donated their photography to put up on the walls. If the pictures were too large to develop normally, they developed the photos in the bathtub.
“The last time I was in the hospital, the photos are still hanging in the hospital.” Norma said.”
The hospital still relies on solid volunteer support to this day, most notably through the Squamish Hospital Foundation, which works to fundraise and bring in equipment and sponsor project needs not covered by other funding. Currently, one top project is to raise money for an advanced blood analyzer for the hospital.
“Mrs. Jakins, the head nurse, said that this area was full of enthusiasm, pride, friendliness, expert service, spirit of cooperation. The community should be very proud of their hospital,” Norma said.
As for Brennan Park, Pat Brennan donated and built Brennan Park.
“Government tends to take the credit, but in reality, it’s the people that make it happen when it comes to a lot of the best things about Squamish – from our trails and climbing routes to our hospital,” Weys said.
Mountain biking trails, walking trails, climbing routes, and the Spit amenities have all been maintained by community organizations and independent volunteers.
SORCA, a local organization with over 2600 volunteers, has maintained the mountain bike trails in our community for the past two decades.
The Squamish Trails Society is dedicated to building and maintaining neighbourhood loop trails and main connector trails intended for people enjoying the route by foot or light biking.
When the 2010 Winter Olympics came our way, community volunteers stepped up to help with enthusiasm.
“I’ve characterized it as establishing volunteering as part of our community DNA. And it was that volunteer DNA that really came to the forefront during the (Olympic) games so much so that John Furlong recognized it in the closing ceremony,” Bob Brant explains. “We are an amazing community.”
“As I noted in one of our meetings, it is my sense that Squamish of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s was a time of incredible community (volunteer) contribution,” Bob Brant said.
What does Squamish need in the future that would benefit our community? Is there anything our community can do to make that happen?
“To continue this legacy, everyone should volunteer in whatever capacity rather than wait for others to provide,” Weys said.
Squamish wouldn’t be the place it is today without the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that gave us our hospital, airport, recreation centre and trails.
All posts on Squamish Forward are the authors’ own opinions & reflect their own research. Have something to say or ideas to improve Squamish? Drop us a note at [email protected].