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.

2017 Snapshots

Preserving a Local Oasis

Residents of Meadowbrook near Kimberley banded together to protect the area surrounding Cherry Creek Falls. The result was a new day-use regional park. The group formed in 2011 after a proposal to build a rock quarry adjacent to the falls spurred them into action. Working with the Regional District of East Kootenay and with Trust support, the group raised the funds required to create a 40-acre park and parking lot. Now the falls will be preserved for generations to enjoy.

The Future is Here

Electric vehicles will soon be a viable option thanks to Accelerate Kootenays. This new initiative will see 13 Direct Current Fast Charging stations installed by December 2018. Also, 40 Level 2 stations are planned for highways 1, 3 and 95, creating a robust charging station network that will connect Basin communities. The two-year project is a collaboration between the regional districts of East Kootenay, Central Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary and is facilitated by the Community Energy Association. It is being supported by the Trust, the Province, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, FortisBC and BC Hydro. It will drive tourism, make it feasible for Basin residents to drive an electric vehicle and ultimately reduce carbon emissions in the area. “This project demonstrates how a collaborative approach will benefit the entire Kootenay region,” says Rob Gay, Board Chair of the Regional District of East Kootenay.

Teaching Through Tradition

Early childhood education students who wanted a program founded on Ɂakisq ̕nuk values, beliefs and traditions had a unique opportunity to train locally this year. With Trust support, 12 students piloted the Eva Joseph Learning and Cultural Society Entry to Early Childhood Education program in Windermere, which helped address shortages in the child care workforce. “This is the only formal training I have ever taken that incorporated my community’s traditions, nutrition and beliefs,” says Glenda Joseph, student and Ɂakisq ̕nuk community member. “We use natural materials, twigs, charcoal, dried meats and berries as supplies in our classroom and in the community playgroup we designed for the Columbia Valley.”

Sustainable Recreation at Koocanusa

The Koocanusa area is important for its natural and cultural values. Its beauty and recreational opportunities also attract many users – which has had some unintended consequences, such as damage to sensitive ecosystems and disturbance to wildlife habitats. The Province, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Tobacco Plains Indian Band, the Regional District of East Kootenay and the Trust created a new strategy that aims to tackle these impacts on Crown land. Key actions include educating users through signage and printed materials; adding natural resource officers; creating an inventory of roads, trails, camping sites and staging areas; and continuing to engage with local groups. The goal is to foster more sustainable and responsible recreation, safeguarding Koocanusa for generations to come. Read the full strategy here.

Waste Not, Want Not

The Revelstoke community is keeping food out of landfills and putting food into tummies instead. In 2016, the Community Connections Society in Revelstoke started its Food Recovery Program, which recovers perfectly good food that’s about to be thrown out from places like grocery stores. Since then it has collected over 45,000 kilograms (100,000 pounds) of food and distributed it to community agencies and families in need. Now, with Trust support, the society has hired a dedicated program coordinator to source even more nutritious foods, improve the distribution system and help people make smart food choices on limited budgets.

2016 Snapshots

Restoring a Tradition

Opened in 1898, St. Eugene Church near Cranbrook is one of the few late-Victorian wooden churches remaining in BC, complete with a towering steeple, buttressed corners, hand-cut shingles and stained glass windows from Italy. Now Ɂaq ̕am, a Ktunaxa First Nations community, has undertaken major restoration work that has brought the church back to its former glory. With Trust support, it completed the restoration in August 2016.

Enjoying a Marsh

Located two kilometres south of the Village of Valemount, the Starratt Wildlife Management Area—known locally as Cranberry Marsh—is home to over a hundred bird species, plus moose, deer, muskrat and beaver. With support from the Trust, Tourism Valemount has enabled visitors to circumnavigate the spongy, fragile marsh by completing a flat, six-kilometre trail, including two 600-metre sections of boardwalk. Visitors can now easily wind along the marsh through forests of black spruce and aspen, while enjoying the open vistas of three stunning mountain ranges: the Cariboos, Monashees and Rockies.

Launching Boats

For decades, recreation lovers have enjoyed boating and fishing on Kootenay Lake. However, recent years have seen a decline in the number of public boat launches on the east side of the lake. To help remedy the situation, the Boswell and District Farmers’ Institute has received Trust support to refurbish its local boat launch. In phase one, it installed a floating breakwater, in phase two, it will rebuild the boat ramp and dock, and in the final phase it will pave and resurface the parking lot.

Clearing a Trail

The 61-kilometre Earl Grey Pass Trail has been used as an important First Nation’s travel corridor, a pass for cattle drives and even a mining road. Now it’s a rugged hiking route that traverses the Purcell Mountain Range from Argenta on Kootenay Lake to Toby Creek near Invermere. After floods and wildlife took out part of the trail and windstorms knocked down trees at the western end, impeding travel, the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society received Trust support to restore the trail. John Cathro who has worked with local volunteers on the project says, “This year will focus on major trail rehabilitation and rebuilding at the west side, working as far to the east as possible. Next year, we’ll focus on completing the trail work, installing interpretive signage and community outreach.” The Kaslo Community Forest Youth Crew will perform the work both years.

Repurposing a Fire Hall

The mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” is practised widely throughout the Kootenays. In Nakusp, the Old Fire Hall Collective Society has refurbished and repurposed the Village-owned, 65-year-old hall with Trust support. The building now houses a local farmers’ market and community kitchen on the main floor, and meeting rooms upstairs. “The farmers’ market is very important to the community, both from a food security issue and economically,” says president Rosemary Hughes. “Having a well-stocked, restaurant-grade kitchen allows vendors to cook and process their edible foodstuffs right on-site. There’s even a cold storage area, and future plans call for educational classes to be taught that will help local residents grow their own food.”

Supporting Snow Mobilers

Surrounded by mountain scenery that leaves people in awe, Revelstoke is known for some of the best snowmobiling in Canada. The Revelstoke Snowmobile Club has now made the area even more appealing by building a new welcome centre, which offers warm facilities for sledders, reminds them how to enjoy the backcountry safely and provides indoor storage space for the club’s snow-grooming equipment. It’s also used for Board meetings and annual club events. Built with Trust support, the centre is located en route to the Boulder Mountain and Frisby Ridge trail systems.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

Ranchers and off-road vehicle users sometimes have competing needs. At McGinty Lake near Kimberley, the Meadowbrook Community Association is working to make sure both groups can enjoy the space without infringing upon the other. Supported by the Trust, the association has replaced and relocated the area’s smooth-wire fence with sturdier barbed wire, allowing native plants to regenerate by the shoreline with minimal disturbance from livestock and off-road vehicles.

Lighting Up the City

Reflecting in the waters of the Columbia River, the Victoria Street Bridge’s new lights dance to music, illuminating and enhancing Trail’s downtown and riverfront areas. Supported by the Trust, the project involved permanent installation of 104 programmable colour-changing LED lights along the bridge’s arches, as well as white lights shining down each bridge column. These will be lit up every night for the enjoyment of residents and visitors, plus can be creatively sequenced for city celebrations and holidays and seasons.

Supporting Community

In small towns like Field, the community centre acts as the main gathering place. Craig Chapman, former Board member of the Field Recreation Advisory Association, says, “All of Field’s major community events are held at the hall: meetings, training sessions, weddings, potluck suppers, dances and major celebrations like the ones on Canada Day and for the Yoho Blow Winter Festival.” Supported by the Trust, recent upgrades include a new security system, an energy-efficient furnace and windows, and improved accessibility and acoustics.

Taking Advice to Heart

Non-profit groups are the backbone of Columbia Basin communities. In 2015, Columbia Basin Trust launched its new Non-profit Advisors Program, offering information and expertise in board governance, strategic planning, human resources and financial, legal and administrative management.

More than 300 non-profit organizations from across the Basin have reached out for advice, support and resources. This includes over 100 that have completed the free assessment and worked alongside an advisor free of charge to discuss that organization’s strengths and challenges, and what steps it can take to operate more efficiently.

Financial Fix

Based in Revelstoke, the North Columbia Environment Society promotes sustainable living and protection of  the natural environment. It was formed in 1999 to address environmental issues facing Revelstoke residents, and its members believe that social, economic and environmental aspects of community life need to be considered equally.

Spokesperson Jody Lownds says the society accessed the Trust’s program to deal with challenges around financial management and strategic planning. “The advisor we worked with made us really think about the ways our society has been operating and potentially better ways to do things. She worked with us to obtain two consultants for the areas we needed the most assistance with.”

Now, with a new bookkeeping system and financial management policies in place, Lownds says the future of the society looks bright.

Going for Governance

The Trail and District Chamber of Commerce supports and encourages growth and development in the local business community.

Executive Director Audry Lochrie recognized the value that the Trust’s Non-profit Advisors Program could provide.

“With only a small board and no budget, we needed governance training before any strategic planning could be undertaken.”

After meeting with an advisor and completing the assessment, the chamber acted on a recommendation for governance training. Lochrie praises the efforts of the governance consultant, who “really nailed all of our issues. She identified the steps we needed to take before even looking at a strategic plan. Six months later, I’m happy to report that we have doubled our board, and are ready to develop our three-year strategic plan.”

Strategic Future

Since 2009, volunteers at the Little Mittens Animal Rescue Association have been rescuing stray and feral cats and kittens in and around Golden—up to 200 animals a year. Fundraising efforts have allowed the association to build a permanent shelter and offer several programs to the community, including the Trap-Neuter-Release Program, low income spay/neuter voucher program and pet foster program. But the society was looking for continued funding development and wanted to set goals for a sustainable future.

Executive Director Alannah Knapp contacted the Trust for support. “Each board member was asked to think individually about our personal goals for the rescue and how we wanted to move the organization forward,” she states.

“The facilitator was able to break these ideas down into a plan that I don’t think we ever would have been able to see for ourselves.”

Executive Director Alannah Knapp contacted the Trust for support. “Each board member was asked to think individually about our personal goals for the rescue and how we wanted to move the organization forward,” she says. “The facilitator was able to break these ideas down into a plan that I don’t think we ever would have been able to see for ourselves.” Since that meeting, the Little Mittens board has met with a strategic planner—also supported by the Trust—to further cement its strategic goals. Says Knapp, “I feel as though this service was able to get us organized in a way we did not have the means to do previously.”

Goal Setting

In Sparwood, the volunteer-run Sunset Ridge Ski Society sets and maintains cross-country ski trails and encourages participation in this healthy sporting activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.

Chairperson Shelly Hume says the society went to the Trust to figure out better ways to meet the needs of Sparwood residents. After undertaking a free assessment with an advisor, it received several resources and suggestions in a report. The program also enabled the society to access a facilitator for a strategic planning session that focused on how to make best use of the society’s resources.

“The program helped us develop a community survey for both members and non-members, which helped us set some goals for the future,” says Hume.

“Most importantly, we set priorities for 2016 to 2018, with concrete goals identified in governance, facilities, programs, membership and community partnerships.”

“The advisor was able to recommend other services we were not aware of.”

Ɂakisq’nuk to Build New Rec Centre

Members of Ɂakisq’nuk First Nation in Windermere are making a community dream for a recreation centre come to life, and Columbia Basin Trust is providing $500,000 to support their efforts.

“This project is an absolute priority for this community, and its opening and utilization will be a source of such pride and hopefulness that it almost defies description.”

“This multi-use building has significant community support and is the result of a considerable amount of community input and visioning,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust President and Chief Executive Officer.

“We’re pleased to be able to help Ɂakisq’nuk realize its community’s goals while benefitting the local economy, providing more opportunities for physical activity and promoting a deeper sense of community.”

This $4-million project is the largest this community has ever undertaken and will provide jobs and training for community members during design and construction, with further opportunities once programs are running. The 22,400-square foot sports complex will house a gymnasium, elevated walking and running track, exercise room, locker rooms, team rooms and a kitchen and seating area. It will also include office space for the Ɂakisq’nuk administration. It will be available for use by anyone in the Columbia Valley, with activity options for all ages and a range of interests.

“This project is an absolute priority for this community, and its opening and utilization will be a source of such pride and hopefulness that it almost defies description,” said Heather Rennebohm, Economic Development Officer, Ɂakisq’nuk First Nation.

Chief Alfred Joseph sees this Centre, which will be open to all residents and visitors, as a manifestation of the First Nation view, he added, “This community is not separate, we are all part of the larger whole.”

Construction should be complete and facilities in use by September 2018.

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.