On a special day once a year First Credit Union (FCU) branches across Vancouver Island, Bowen Island, Hornby Island, Texada Island, and the Sunshine Coast close their doors a few hours early. Employees head out into their communities armed with an array of unexpected implements such as drills and hammers, garden tools, garbage bags, and cleaning supplies.
“Community Impact Day started in 2015, and it was such a success we started holding it annually,” says Tara Chernoff, VP Impact & Marketing at FCU. On this day FCU staff show up in a different way than usual for their communities.
SHOWING UP FOR COMMUNITY
“Over the years we’ve worked with so many wonderful groups. We’ve helped with painting and deep cleans, trail building, and maintenance; worked in community gardens; and done beach cleanups. Each branch chooses a non-profit to work with, depending on the needs of their community,” says Chernoff.
In the Comox Valley this year, Community Impact Day (June 15) focused on LUSH Valley’s Tsolum Garden Project. More than 20 Courtenay and Cumberland employees gathered to help with weeding and maintenance at this community garden, which serves as a school garden for learners of all ages through local agriculture and food security projects.
“The Tsolum Garden has been maintained and expanded by LUSH Valley Food Action Society’s staff and volunteers since 2020,” says Carley VanOsch, Urban Agriculture Manager at LUSH Valley. “This Community Impact Day, First Credit Union team members built new garden beds, increasing LUSH Valley’s growing space; erected shade structures, improving LUSH Valley’s ability to host programs and workshops; and nurtured the Native Food Forest, helping to grow over 100 native plant species for community enjoyment.”
FCU’s assistance on Community Impact Day was very helpful to LUSH Valley, Carley says. The effort also helped raise awareness for all the important work the organization does year-round for the Comox Valley community.
“A region where healthy local food is at the heart of community wellbeing is the vision that guides the work of LUSH Valley Food Action Society,” she explains. “LUSH Valley’s mission is to support the Comox Valley community to gain food-systems tools, engage in just and resilient local food systems, and receive equitable access to nourishing food.”
The lives of more than 10,000 people in the Comox Valley, including community partners, agency partners, homeowners, donors, sponsors, volunteers, clients, and other various stakeholders, are touched by LUSH Valley’s programs annually.
Knowing that food security is such a big issue in the Comox Valley made the partnership with LUSH Valley a natural fit, says Chris Higgins, Regional Manager of Retail Banking at FCU and champion of this year’s Comox Valley Community Impact Day partnership. “LUSH Valley resonated with us as an organization for Community Impact Day because they’re a little bit smaller and grassroots—very much about community, like First Credit Union is.
“They tackle food security issues from many important angles,” he continues. “I think the more we bring attention to these issues as a community, the better it is for all of us.”
In 2000 when LUSH Valley registered as a non-profit society, the Fruit Tree Program, which mobilizes teams of volunteers to help “Share the Harvest” and reduce food waste, was their main initiative. Since then, the organization has expanded to include a number of other programs such as:
• Urban Agriculture Programs, which support individuals to grow their own food;
• Healthy Foods Programs, teaching people of all ages to cook healthy meals and appreciate local food;
• Food Share, which distributes hot meals and Good Food Boxes to community members experiencing food insecurity;
• Advocacy for food security initiatives; and
• Comox Valley Food Policy Council, working with various stakeholders to grow the local food economy.
The opportunity to highlight the work of non-profits is an important aspect of Community Impact Day, Tara says.
“The decision to close our branches early does not come lightly,” she explains. “But at its heart Community Impact Day is a tangible demonstration of our commitment to community.”
Chris agrees. “It’s easy to say, ‘We’re local’ or ‘We’re community-minded,’ but actions speak louder than words. With Community Impact Day, we show that we are in our communities, we care, and we are here to provide support however we can. Cumberland and Courtenay staff are very excited to be able to show that support to LUSH Valley this year.”