This is the Life: Creston Valley residents always ready to show generosity

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In recent years our community’s major Christmas concert has been what I consider my personal kickoff to the holiday season.

I don’t like hearing carols before December (or after Christmas day) and I dislike seeing Christmas displays that expand the season for longer than a month. Enough already, too much of a good thing, I say. But when I walk out of what has now become the Singing in the Christmas Trees concert, I’m ready for the season.

We attended the Friday evening performance of Singing in the Christmas Trees and it was, by any standards, an outstanding event. Many years ago I wrote a column that, only partly in jest, talked about my gratitude for the incredible amount of work people in this community go to entertain me. That Friday night was a perfect example. I counted the names of about 120 singers (though there was some overlap in the various groups), 17 musicians and dozens more volunteers in other capacities. Astonishing.

The coolest thing was that in the entire program there wasn’t a single piece that I didn’t find completely engaging. The variety of music and the quality of their presentation was quite wonderful. And then, at the end of the program, when singers packed the stage to sing one of my favourite pieces, Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, I had the same reaction I hear every time it is performed well. Shivers ran up and down my spine and tears came to my eyes. A beautiful piece of music, performed beautifully. What a way to kick off my Christmas season.

Of course there are many other worthy holiday performances going on at this time and one of my favourites happened last Friday, when I witnessed the sight of over 700 pounds of food being donated to the food bank by the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) and the Town of Creston, each of which had taken on the challenge of setting up collection sites and encouraging donations. OK, so the LKB’s collection of food was about 10 times that of the town’s, but who’s counting (except me, and perhaps Chief Jason Louie)? It was a good-natured Mayor Ron Toyota who smiled for the camera, then wrote out a personal cheque to the food bank for $500 (LKB had raised $1,000, much of which came from a grant from Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B).

Only the night before that I had attended the Christmas concert at Canyon-Lister Elementary School. Attending a school concert is sure to bring smiles from even the grumpiest people, and I love watching the little ones perform. Their joy and enthusiasm is contagious. Readers won’t see much in the way of great photographs from the evening. By the time the gymnasium is set up to accommodate parents and friends, there isn’t much room left for the performers, so getting good pics is pretty much impossible. The memories I left with are wonderful, though.

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Muriel Buhr, who inspires everyone around her as she raises cash and donations that go to the small First Nations community of Shamattawa in Northern Manitoba. The story is elsewhere on these pages, and Buhr and I had an interesting conversation about how incredibly generous people of the Creston Valley and East Shore are. The Shamattawa project doesn’t seem to have the least negative impact on local fundraising activities, and it serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live here.

Finally, a note of thanks to Advance readers. For many, many years, we have provided space in our Christmas edition that we call our Community Christmas Card. It was designed to encourage readers to forego sending Christmas cards to local friends and relatives, and to donate instead to the Christmas hamper fund. The names of these very generous people are listed in this week’s paper. This year we set yet another record, going over the $5,000 mark for the first time. It was an exciting experience for our office, seeing the donations roll in and the total inch toward last year’s take of more than $4,900. I think we would have been scouring our pockets for spare change if we needed it to go over $5,000.

Merry Christmas to all, and sincere wishes for a safe and happy holiday. Drive safely.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.