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Thanksgiving Back program doubles volunteer base, celebrates another successful year

Volunteers had six projects to choose from to get a discount of their accommodations

Thanksgiving in Revelstoke has taken on a new meaning with the Thanksgiving Back program through Tourism Revelstoke.

“My wife saw it on social media. And we decided to try it and see what happens,” said Andy Hooker, returning volunteer from last year.

Those looking to visit Revelstoke had the opportunity over the past two weekends to volunteer their time in exchange for accommodations. The program partners with several local groups, initiatives, and associations to work together for mutual benefit. The locals get some help with their work, and the people visiting get somewhere to stay.

Partnering with hotels around the city, volunteers received $500 back towards their accommodations for a day’s worth of volunteer work.

The program was a big success again this year. Robyn Goldsmith from Tourism Revelstoke said that from roughly 35 volunteers last year, the program doubled the turnout this year.

There were six options of volunteer projects that visitors could choose from, including LUNA, Blanket Creek Restoration, Local Food Initiative, Revelstoke’s Visual Arts Centre (RVAC), a Trail Day with the Revelstoke Cycling Association, and the Revelstoke Railway Museum.

At RVAC, executive director Meghan Porath, led a group of nine volunteers through a gallery cleanup. Andy Hooker returned for Thanksgiving Back for the second time, after his wife saw an ad online for the program. Last year, Hooker volunteered for the Revelstoke Railway Museum, but this year he helped out at RVAC.

Andy Hooker working at the RVAC as part of the Thanksgiving Back (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)
Andy Hooker working at the RVAC as part of the Thanksgiving Back (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

“Well, it makes it worthwhile to come over for sure… And so, I was like, ‘okay, well sure if you’re offering to do accommodations,’” said Hooker of the program.

At RVAC, the group cleared out some of the clutter that had accumulated behind the scenes of the gallery before lunch. Afterwards, they were scrubbing down some chairs outside. Tania and Elsa Driedger—a mother and daughter duo from Armstrong.

Elsa Driedger (centre) scrubs a chair at the RVAC for the Thanksgiving Back program (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)
Elsa Driedger (centre) scrubs a chair at the RVAC for the Thanksgiving Back program (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

“It was chaos. That would not be the ideal workspace for me at least,” said Elsa of the pottery room that she helped to clean at RVAC on Saturday.

Art runs in the Driedger family, as Elsa’s father was a potter for 35 years before retiring. Now, Elsa has taken her own interest in the arts, specifically sketching and watercolour, which was part of the Driedger family’s decision to volunteer at RVAC.

“We’re all able to work and help out—we thought that was good value for these guys to all work for our son is doing the trail building because he’s a downhill maker,” said Tania.

The initiative was based on an idea from friends of Robyn Goldsmith’s, who live in a small town in New Zealand.

“So, they had people come and stay and remove this invasive species, and then hosted them for free. And I think they did meals and that kind of thing as well,” said Goldsmith.

Goldsmith saw the program as potentially good fit for Revelstoke to maintain tourism during the shoulder seasons.

Building upon the success of this year’s program, Tourism Revelstoke will look to bring Thanksgiving Back to Revelstoke again next fall. They are even exploring options of getting a similar initiative started in the other shoulder season in Revelstoke in the spring.

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