The new owners of Lady Rose Marine Services are celebrating their first year of ownership by offering free passage to Bamfield aboard the MV Frances Barkley in December.
Greg Willmon and Barrie Rogers of Devon Transport in Nanaimo bought Lady Rose Marine Services in 2021, saving the Port Alberni-based marine passenger and cargo business. Willmon and Rogers wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way by offering free trips, but that’s not all.
“I came up with this idea to do the free sailings in December and then I thought we could turn it into a fundraiser for charity,” Willmon said.
He’s asking anyone who books their free trip in December to consider making a donation, which Lady Rose Marine will match, to a total of $5,000. The goal is to raise at least $10,000 and split it equally between the Salvation Army and Ty Watson House Hospice.
“We’ve always been a big supporter of the Salvation Army and hospice house” in Nanaimo, Willmon said. Now they want to support similar organizations in Port Alberni.
Salvation Army Major Michael Ramsay said the donation couldn’t come at a better time. “The need in our community coming into the Christmas season is higher than I’ve ever seen it, even through the COVID years,” he said.
“Our registration for Christmas hampers already—and we’re not even in December—has surpassed the number of families in need that we’ve ever dealt with before. The price of groceries and the price of gas has also meant our traditional supporters haven’t been able to support to the amount that they have.”
Ramsay said he spoke to one senior on a fixed income, a longtime supporter of the Salvation Army who wasn’t able to help this year. “Now they needed our services.”
Alberni Valley Hospice Society executive director Teresa Ludvigson said any donations to Ty Watson House Hospice will be well received at this time of year. “We have not been able to have our major fundraiser for Ty Watson House since 2019, which was the black tie gala,” she said.
“That has hurt us financially and impacted operational revenues with Ty Watson House. Any contribution to help us improve the year will be wonderful.”
During the coronavirus pandemic the hospice society lost $286,000 in funding over two years because they were unable to hold their traditional fundraising events. “That puts a figure to what we’re now anticipating is a better year and better recovery. This is a nice way to end the year.”
One of Willmon’s other businesses, Budget Rental in Port Alberni, has donated $250 to each non-profit and is issuing a challenge to other businesses to make similar donations to both Ty Watson House Hospice and Salvation Army. Lady Rose Marine Services will accept donations at their office at Harbour Quay.
Sailings aboard the MV Frances Barkley will leave Port Alberni at 8 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The ride down Alberni Inlet to Bamfield takes approximately three and a half hours in one direction, with a one-hour stop-over in west Bamfield. The vessel serves breakfast and lunch and is fully licensed. To make a reservation, call 250-723-8313.
Willmon will announce in early January how much money was raised.
“Our hope is to raise $10,000,” he said. “I really hope everyone gets on board and hopefully it’s even more successful than that.”