Alberni District Co-op celebrated its annual Members Appreciation Day this year by donating more than $25,000 to local community organizations.
As part of its first annual Community Investment Fund, the Co-op board of directors presented cheques on Saturday, June 18 to the Alberni Valley Community Foundation, the Port Alberni Backpack Program, Meals on Wheels and the Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society.
The Community Investment Fund is new this year, and comes from Alberni District Co-op’s profits from 2021. Co-op owns and operates three different gas stations in Port Alberni, and recently added a liquor store to its retail operations.
“Co-op has always had a donation budget for community organizations and events,” explained Neil Malbon, a director with the Co-op board. “We thought it would be nice to bring together a Community Investment Fund.”
Co-op has been involved in various donations and fundraisers in Port Alberni for the past 90 years, but this new Community Investment Fund is created to fund larger projects.
In its first year, Malbon said the program had a lot of interest. Alberni District Co-op plans to make it an annual program.
On Saturday, Co-op celebrated its Members Appreciation Day with family-friendly activities, raffles and food at Glenwood Centre. It was during this event that the board decided to present four cheques to the winning applicants.
“It just made sense to do the cheque presentation here,” said Malbon.
Alberni Valley Community Foundation (AVCF) received $3,000, which will go towards its annual Vital Signs report.
John Mayba, a board member with AVCF, said the Vital Signs report provides a snapshot of the community, with statistics and information that can be used by government officials, community groups who are making grant applications and people who are hoping to move to Port Alberni.
The Port Alberni Backpack Program received $7,500. This program allows school children to take home food over the weekend that will keep them—and their families—fed.
Spokesperson Linda Taylor thanked Alberni District Co-op on Saturday for the donation.
“Every penny that we receive from you will go directly to feeding our families,” she said. “And this will be a wonderful and positive impact on all of them.”
Another food program, Meals on Wheels, received $10,000. Meals on Wheel provides warm meals for clients who are unable to cook their own food, whether due to disability or mobility issues. Volunteer drivers also provide an informal check-in on clients’ safety and well-being.
But the organization has been struggling with funding this year, said spokesperson Robin Forrest.
“Without [Co-op’s] generosity, our organization would not even have been able to last another six months,” she said. “Their kindness and insight into what our association does has provided us another year of service.”
The Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society received almost $5,600, which will go towards hiring a summer student.
Don Jones explained that the society has a number of events planned for this summer, including the return of its weekly “Maritime Mondays” events and the annual bullhead derby on Aug. 20. Summer students will greet visitors and act as tour guides.
“It’s going to be very beneficial to us and it’s going to be beneficial to [the student] and the leadership they’re going to learn,” said Jones.
Malbon says there are several other smaller donations that will take place throughout the year.
“We’re extremely pleased we’re able to give back to the community,” he said.