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Coulson Group offers window into Port Alberni non-profits

Windows of Hope contest draws attention to important community work
Leona Horvath, branch manager for RBC, and Nicole Sendey of the Coulson Group of Companies stand in front of the newly-decorated windows on Third Avenue with the cheque that will be delivered to the winning business. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

For years, the windows in the former Zeller’s building in Port Alberni’s Uptown have remained mostly empty, save for the odd community event.

Now, the Coulson Group of Companies and RBC have partnered with local non-profits to fill up those windows with colourful displays that draw attention to challenges and supports across the Alberni Valley.

For the Windows of Hope Challenge, windows in what is now the Coulson Ice Blast building have been decorated by various non-profit organizations in the Alberni Valley. People can vote on their favourite window, with a cash prize going to the winning organization.

Nicole Sendey, the Coulson Group director of public relations and communication, said that the goal of the challenge is twofold: brightening up the city’s downtown core and creating awareness about local non-profits.

“That there are a lot of non-profits in town,” said Sendey. “Through COVID, most of them weren’t able to get their message across. We recognized that our window displays could be a benefit to the community.”

Throughout the pandemic, deaths from toxic drugs have been on the rise, so the Port Alberni Community Action Team is using its window display to raise awareness and reduce stigma about substance use disorders.

READ MORE: Community Action Team brings Port Alberni’s opioid crisis into the open

Domestic violence has also been on the rise during the pandemic. Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society (ACAWS) is using two window displays to acknowledge Missing, Murdered and Indigenous Women and Girls and to provide supports.

Other organizations with window displays include the Alberni Valley Hospice Society, BC SPCA, Port Alberni Family Guidance Association, Salvation Army, Port Alberni Association for Community Living, Royal Candian Legion and Literacy Alberni.

“We want to remind people that there is support available, but also remind people to give their support to these organizations,” said Sendey.

For the organizations themselves, the opportunity to promote their programs is a gift.

“To be offered a chance for a display Coulson offered us to highlight the things that are important to us, that was something we jumped at,” said Lesley Wright from Literacy Alberni Society. Their display includes a world map depicting all the countries from which staff and learned have immigrated.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will be offering a $500 prize for the winner of the contest. The Coulson Group partnered with RBC because the bank is located just down the street from the Coulson Ice Blast building. As part of the contest, the Coulson Group cleaned up their building and installed window lights that will make the displays visible 24/7.

“We wanted to bring a bit of spirit to Third Avenue,” said Sendey. “It’s a small thing we thought would be advantageous for these organizations, but also for the downtown core.”

She hopes the windows will bring more people to the Uptown area.

The contest launched on Oct. 1 and will end on Oct. 31. People can vote online at at or in person at RBC (2925 Third Avenue) or at the Coulson Group headquarters at Chances RimRock Gaming Centre (4890 Cherry Creek Road). People can also vote using their phones by scanning the QR codes on the windows.

Sendey hopes that the contest can become a year-round event. The Coulson Group is already planning another Christmas-themed Windows of Hope Challenge for December.

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Marilyn Gibson of Literacy Alberni affixes stars on a world map of countries from which staff and learners from the literacy non-profit organization have immigrated. The map is part of Literacy Alberni’s Windows of Hope display in the Coulson building on Third Avenue in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LITERACY ALBERNI)

Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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