Beyond Great Beer

This weekend, the Trail Beer Refinery will throw a birthday party. A little over two years ago, this business in downtown Trail started brewing its first batch of beer. It then opened the doors to its restaurant. The grand opening was such an anticipated event that people lined up down the block.

Lineups and full houses continue to happen today. “It’s still going strong,” says Mike Konkin, founder and one of 13 co-owners. In addition to a popular restaurant, the Refinery has several brands of beer available in local liquor stores. It has just introduced a new vodka soda, about to be distributed around the province. And the Refinery’s impacts on the community are larger than ever.

It was in early 2016 that Konkin started realizing his dream of owning a brewery in Trail. After doing market research, he noticed that other breweries often started too small, and then soon had to expand. Wanting to bypass that growth phase, the co-owners decided to go big right from the beginning. “And that entailed some funding,” Konkin says.

Because the Refinery would bring jobs to the community, revitalize vacant commercial property and help bring a new sense of vibrancy to Trail’s downtown core, this opportunity was suited to the Trust’s Impact Investment Funds. This program, delivered by Community Futures and Heritage Credit Union, supports businesses that aren’t able to secure conventional financing but will benefit communities in an impactful way.

Two years later, the Refinery employs over 20 people—and it has helped downtown Trail produce a whole new vibe. “The downtown core, from before we started to now, is night and day,” says Konkin. “There are always new things happening. It’s not just us: it’s the Trail Smoke Eaters; it’s the new library museum; it’s other businesses that have come or updated. There’s a different feeling downtown.”

The Refinery has definitely played its part, from being a fun place to socialize for people of all ages, to hosting events like painting nights and hockey fundraisers. “It’s a really cool, community atmosphere. I think we’ve succeeded in that.”

Even the by-product of beer brewing has wider benefits. Instead of being thrown out, the Refinery’s beer mash goes to farmers for uses like pig feed, and to a local manufacturer of dog biscuits. The Refinery’s next push will be to introduce new beer brands, expand its beer distribution system throughout the province and into Alberta, and continue to promote the success of its new vodka soda.

“It’s been a fun ride,” says Konkin. “We’re now trying to launch new products, continue to innovate and keep on growing.”

The Spirit of Giving

Food Banks Embody the Spirit of Giving—All Year Round

Across the Basin, people in communities of all types—big, small, urban and rural—use the services of the region’s 31 food banks. These may be run by the communities themselves, local churches or service organizations. They may have paid employees or not. But they do have several things in common: the critical role of volunteers, love of community, dedication to helping others and vital importance to those that access them.

The Trust recognizes how essential food banks can be in ensuring the well-being of residents and communities. To that end, we support food banks in various ways, from providing funding so they can implement projects, to helping the organizations themselves become more efficient and effective through our Non-profit Advisors Program. Plus, every December the Trust gives a little bit extra to every food bank to help with the holiday rush.

“The volunteers keep this place going—they are the backbone of what we do here every day. I am just privileged to be part of it.”

This is Linda Rake. She has been a coordinator with the Trail Salvation Army for 23 years. She works with a dedicated crew of 20 volunteers who provide daily meals and monthly hampers. The Trail Salvation Army food bank is one of two in Trail; the other is operated by the Trail United Church.

“In November we provided lunch for 1,000 people and we’ve started a breakfast program that saw 75 people last month.”

The branch celebrated its 100th anniversary this year and Linda says it’s the people she gets to meet and the connections she makes in her community that she loves most about her work.

“This is such a wonderful community for volunteering. Being able to meet and help others is the best part of my job.”

Linda and her volunteers will pack and distribute close to 300 Christmas hampers this December.

The Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services Society in Nakusp provides monthly hampers along with a Meals on Wheels and frozen meals program.

This year on December 21, 10 volunteers will pack and deliver 142 Christmas hampers within Nakusp and to nearby communities like Burton, Fauquier and Edgewood.

For Anne Miskulin, food bank coordinator, the spirit of giving shines brightly in Nakusp.

“Our volunteers have a love for this program. And we receive so much support from local businesses. It gives us a lot of pleasure to help others. Everyone is so thankful.”

The Valemount Food Bank’s Board has seven directors who are also its volunteers. Each month the seven members come together to assist 10 to 12 families. Vice President, Sherry Tinsley, is proud of their collaborative efforts to help the organization better serve the community.

“My favourite part of being involved with the food bank is brainstorming on how we can make the food bank better by offering more wholesome, healthier options to people This organization is special because we all share the same vision for the food bank by way of privacy, healthier options, accessibility and safety.”

Supporting local agriculture is part of that vision. The food bank includes local produce – carrots and potatoes – along with eggs from an area farm.

Meeting the individual needs of their community members is always top of mind for the Board. “We deliver hampers to those that need delivery, try to be aware of food allergies and provide extra treats for the children when we can,” says Sherry.

This level of care for their small community is reflected in the Christmas hampers the group packed this month.

“We recently put our Christmas hampers together and it was a warm feeling to know that these clients will have an awesome Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and a few extras that I’m sure they will truly appreciate.”

Over a stretch of 65 kilometres, Pastor Richard Dannhauer and his volunteers are bringing Christmas cheer to the small communities that dot Kootenay Lake’s East Shore.

The East Shore Christmas Hamper program sees Dannhauer and 15 other volunteers packing and distributing 50 hampers to East Shore residents. It’s a project that starts well before the holidays with local fundraising and food drives.

“We start ordering and collecting in October. Many people are involved in helping us raise funds and collect food and other contents for the hampers. The Crawford Bay School did a food drive and fundraiser and we held a local event that raised $2,000 in one evening. It’s neat how—from young people to seniors—folks contribute to their community.”

Dannhauer is not surprised by the support. “These are very loving, giving communities. People just want to help others at this time of year and share some kindness.”

The Elkford Food Bank has been supporting local residents for over 20 years. For six of these, volunteer Karen Lewis has been helping provide monthly hampers on as-needed basis.

She and other volunteers will provide 14 hampers this December—and is thankful that this number is lower than in years past.

“It depends on the economy—some years we have had to provide more help than others.”

December hampers always include presents for the younger members of the families. Karen says that what makes her work at this time of the year special is knowing that local children will all have gifts to open.

“It’s because of the kids, knowing that there will be no children in our community without a present at Christmas.”

You can learn more about food banks in your area by visiting Food Banks BC at At this time of giving and sharing, please consider volunteering your time or donating to a group that makes a difference in your community.

Photos: Dogwood Photography – Rachel Brayshaw


Paying it Forward

The thrift store of the Rossland Health Care Auxiliary is a popular spot. With folks waiting in line for the shop to open each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to search out what new gems have made their way onto shelves, the store is in high demand by local and not-so-local shoppers.

“We have people coming from away – along with all of our locals – from Nelson, Trail Castlegar,” says Marie Skinner, Society President. “When I came through the store today, there were about 50 shoppers. Residents tell us how much they appreciate having a place they can afford to shop.”

But the store is much more than a place to find bargains or vintage items. It is a major annual contributor to the health foundation of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, plus to community organizations like the Rossland Search and Rescue, Rossland and Trail food banks and Trail hospice.

“We gave away around $170,000 last year,” says Skinner. “We have 50 active volunteers that look after pretty much everything we have to do. We are a big family. And we love what we do.”

Skinner lists many joys when it comes to the store, but three stand out for her: the support the store provides to the community, the camaraderie of working as a group, and how hard they work to keep as many items as possible out of the landfill.

“We ship clothing to Positive Apparel in Nelson, which they process into material for shipping overseas. We also cut rags and sell those to local businesses.”

In ways like these, the Society is making a real difference – one reason the Trust supports it and so many other non-profits across the Basin. This year, the Trust helped fund a mechanical room with a new heating and air conditioning system.

Now heading into its 81st year, the store shows no signs of slowing down – much of it thanks to its many volunteers. Skinner says, “It’s amazing what people can achieve when they put their heart and soul into something they believe in.” If you want to learn more about what the Rossland Health Care Auxiliary thrift store does, visit their facebook page.

Photos: Dogwood Photography – Rachel Brayshaw


Engaging Our Youth

Youth are a vital force in the Columbia Basin and the Trust’s Basin Youth Network is tapping into that energy.

From Valemount to Yaqan Nukiy and many points in between, 28 Youth Networks work to collaborate, engage and connect more in their communities, creating new relationships and helping to advance the issues and interests that matter to them. It’s an opportunity to grow, learn and appreciate the experience of other youth.

Established in fall 2015 and renewed for three years in 2018, the network serves youth in several ways. On the community level, it aids and provides funding to the community youth networks. These work to increase local activities and opportunities for youth aged 12 to 18, enabling them to learn new skills and engage more with each other and their communities.

On the regional level, the Basin Youth Network brings together youth through regional or Basin-wide events like the Basin Youth Network Leadership Summit, hosted every two years. It also develops and delivers resources that address youth priorities, like an upcoming leadership training opportunity, and local youth coordinator priorities, like a mental health first aid course.

Learn more at

Putting a Priority on Happiness

Seniors in the Basin want to live in comfortable surroundings with the level of services they need. For many, this means securing a place in a seniors housing community with affordable independent and assisted-living options.

One of these is Joseph Creek Village in Cranbrook. This is one of eight seniors living communities the Trust has invested in, with a ninth under construction. Operated by Golden Life Management, these facilities provide housing for seniors at reasonable rents—plus help the Trust earn income it uses to deliver programs and initiatives throughout the region.

In this video, Golden Life’s Celeste Mullin describes how a focus on residents’ well-being makes the Trust the perfect partner when it comes to providing quality, affordable housing for Basin seniors.

New Community Hub Breaks Ground

Members of the Tobacco Plains Indian Band will soon have a safe and welcoming space where they can access services and come together. Yesterday was an important day as the community and supporters gathered to break ground for a new Community Administration & Health Centre, funded in part by $500,000 from Columbia Basin Trust.

“We’ve been working closely with First Nations communities to understand their needs and see how we can support them,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust President and Chief Executive Officer.

“This centre will have immediate positive impact for the Tobacco Plains community.”

With construction estimated to cost about $3.2 million, the new building will combine several amenities that currently don’t exist or are scattered in smaller, outdated locations. It will house the Band administration, a health centre, meeting spaces and a gymnasium, giving the community a place to gather and interact, play sports, exercise and access wellness facilities. It will enable the Band administration to increase services and programming, plus the building will display cultural artifacts and designs. It will also offer new employment opportunities and training space.

“The Tobacco Plain’s Community Administration & Health Center is the Band’s first true community building,” said Nasukin Mary Mahseelah, Tobacco Plains Indian Band.

“It will create an opportunity for the administration to support membership and the community in their goals to create and improve services geared toward health and wellness, employment and training, and cultural heritage.”

In addition to the Band and the Trust, other contributors include the First Nations Health Authority, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the BC Museums Association. Construction should be complete and facilities in use by late spring 2018.

Connecting Golden to the International Stage

When the Town of Golden welcomed the Freeride World Tour in February 2018, a powerful broadband network became critical. FlexiNET Broadband, a local Internet service provider, worked with Columbia Basin Trust to make it happen.

Live streaming and immediate race results were shared around the globe.

This skiing and snowboarding event sparked a huge tourism boost for Golden when approximately 120 athletes, crew, sponsors and media descended on the town and Kicking Horse Resort—the only North American stop on the tour—along with thousands of spectators.

In order to provide these visitors with high-speed Wi-Fi, and support to media and operation teams, Tourism Golden reached out to FlexiNET to create a robust wireless Internet connection where there hadn’t been one before. It did so by working with the Trust’s broadband team to increase bandwidth, which gave the tour the capacity it needed.

“There were a number of challenges,” said Joanne Sweeting, Executive Director at Tourism Golden. “They needed multiple IP addresses, fast upload speeds (over 25 Mbps) to produce and distribute high-quality videos and space for up to 30 media and operation teams. The combination of these was difficult in Golden, a town where 5 Mbps is standard and no public space was set up with that capability.”

Approximately 120 athletes, crew, sponsors and media descended on the town and Kicking Horse Resort.

By connecting to the Trust’s high-speed fibre optic network, FlexiNET was able to provide the required IP addresses and increase in speed and capacity. Live streaming and immediate race results were shared around the globe. Videos uploaded in seconds, and the main race alone generated over four million live and replay video views. Overall, the event reached 250,000 viewers worldwide in the first week alone.

Thanks to Flexinet and the Trust’s support, Sweeting says the town has now proven it has the capability to host an event of this size. This will enable it to be more proactive in seeking other big events.

“I think this demonstrates to other Basin communities that struggle with similar issues of connectivity and resources that, with some creative thinking, collaboration and support, it’s possible to make things happen,” said Sweeting.

Mentors Inspire Youth

The Trust has partnered with JA British Columbia (JABC) to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in local youth and inspire community mentors through Be Entrepreneurial. The program is facilitated by local business people who bring their expertise into the classroom at the invitation of a host teacher.

JABC Mentor Jennifer Barclay steps away from her regular duties as a workshop facilitator for Kootenay Career Development Society to deliver the interactive curriculum on self-employment, financial literacy and work readiness, most recently to Stanley Humphries Secondary students.

“I’d love to see more business people doing this because it gives kids the opportunity to connect with people in their community who are making a difference, building things, and introducing new products and ideas. I want this generation to get excited about where they live and about the opportunities that exist here for them, and this program is a great platform for that,” said Jennifer.

“It’s very heartening that there is a program like this that supports kids in rural communities.”

The curriculum, presented in a group setting, draws on collaboration and innovation. Jen appreciated the students’ ability to tap into ideas enthusiastically, without hesitation or creative restriction. Her own passion had her formerly running Fattoria Local Foods, which followed the principles of the 100 Mile Diet and sold humanely raised meat, sourced from farms in the nearby Creston Valley, to the community of Nelson.

“I had a lot to share because my business wasn’t successful in the end – you can learn just as much from that, if not more,” she said. “I didn’t succeed because I didn’t identify my weaknesses: working alone, being organized and the financials.”

“It’s just as important to be able to identify your weaknesses as it is your strengths, so that you can enlist help.”

She was pleased to participate in a program that gives students an understanding of the important role planning plays in starting a business by identifying and examining entrepreneurial concepts, including product, service, competitive advantage and target market.

Coaching students to develop and pitch their own business is guided by the program materials and in-depth training but personalized by the mentor, who shares real life stories in an engaging and memorable way.

Getting real and connecting with youth was refreshing and inspiring for Jen, who has a relaxed disposition she attributes to her varied background. Jen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, which she draws on in her current role with KCDS in Castlegar. There she conducts employment workshops that focus on resume and cover letter building, job searching and interview prep, the Myers Briggs’ personality test, and, her personal favourite, one that tackles the importance of self-esteem.

“Being unemployed can be so hard on people’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Ironically, it’s a time when you’re expected to go out and sell yourself,” she adds. By imparting their knowledge, volunteers like Jen give students the confidence they need to find success in both business and life by challenging students to examine their strengths and consider their futures within their community.

“I have friends from Castlegar and Nelson with kids who graduate and leave for university; they get out of dodge as soon as they can, which I understand and I support,” said Jennifer.

“But I also like the idea of inspiring youth to invest in their community.”

Be Entrepreneurial is one of JABC’s free programs, available thanks to generous donations from supporters like the Trust.

JABC is a member of JA Canada and part of JA Worldwide (JA), the world’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating young people about business. Since 1955, British Columbia schools have partnered with JA to inspire and prepare youth to succeed in an ever-changing global economy. In the 2016-17 school year, over 38,000 BC students benefited from JABC programs delivered free of charge by volunteers from local business communities.

To volunteer to deliver a JABC program in your community, visit To request the Be Entrepreneurial Program for your school, check out

Affordable Housing for Shuswap Community

For the first time in 30 years, new housing is coming to the Shuswap community. The construction of two new duplexes is nearing completion at the Old Village Site and will feature both two and three bedroom units. The new units are part of a long-term strategy to create affordable housing for band members with low-to-moderate incomes and will mean big things for 13 potential tenants.

“Homes have not been built in our community for 30 years,” said Dolores Nicholas, Social Development/Housing Manager for Shuswap Indian Band. “This is very exciting for the community, especially since it allows for family members to finally come home.”

According to Nicholas, it’s difficult for band members to find affordable housing in the surrounding area due to high rent and shortage of availability. When band members move back to the community, often they are living in overcrowded situations with other family members.

“When there is a lack of housing available, members of our community do not have choice,” said Nicholas.

“Anyone under 30 has never seen a new house built here. We’re hoping that the new duplexes will allow people to have more pride in their community and give them a comfortable place to live.”

The Shuswap Band and Council are also exploring several other housing options for the future such as tiny homes and more multi-units. According to Nicholas, there is room for more new development near the duplexes. The main challenge is developing infrastructure, not the availability of land, so the investigation into future housing opportunities is ongoing.

Construction is expected to be completed soon. The Shuswap Housing Committee is currently in the selection process for tenants and planning for families to occupy the new units by May 2018.

Environmental Education Programs Resume In Creston

Environmental education and awareness programs at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area are going to continue under new management. Since 1974, these programs were provided by the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority, but this ended with the permanent closure of the interpretive centre in October 2017. Now the programs will continue thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Authority and the Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre Society (KCDCS), with funding from Columbia Basin Trust.

The informative and fun programs engaged with thousands of visitors each year, teaching them about wetland ecosystems and wildlife. Now, with $295,000 in support from the Trust over five years, this valuable service will continue to welcome students, residents and tourists of all ages.

“The community showed great support for these programs, and residents moved quickly to make sure they wouldn’t lose this educational, economic and cultural resource,” said Kindy Gosal Columbia Basin Trust, Director Special Initiatives.

“We’re pleased to help this community act on such a widely held priority and give the society a sense of financial stability while it works toward its future.”

KCDCS will use $95,000 this year to cover transition costs; install a portable classroom, office and washrooms; and deliver a variety of programming for adults and children, such as canoe tours, family fun days and special events. For the subsequent four years, the Trust will provide $50,000 per year to continue to support the programs.

Jim Posynick is Chair of the KCDCS. “The Wetland Education and Awareness Program creates an understanding and appreciation for the natural world so participants can make informed decisions and actions related to the environment. It also gives volunteers, community members and other organizations opportunities to help promote wetland conservation, stewardship and research. Having a safe, functional and appealing temporary home and the funding to think long-term will provide us with the foundation we need while making plans for a permanent location.”