May 11, 2016

CUPE Locals building community in the East Kootenays

CRANBROOK - Through the “Seeds of Change: CUPE in the Kootenays” program, three CUPE locals are supporting and developing new ways to do good works in their community. The locals are shining a positive light on community participation, networking with other groups and organizations, and putting their union Locals on the map with residents.

“Under Seeds of Change, we want to get as many people as possible involved in the community,” said CUPE 2773 shop steward Karl Walker, who also designed the program’s logo.

CUPE 2773 (College of the Rockies), CUPE 4165 (School District #5), and CUPE 2090 (City of Cranbrook) have created an umbrella group with the goal of encouraging CUPE members and others to get involved through volunteering at community events.  They are inviting other organizations to join under the Seeds of Change umbrella and hope to build a network of community support.

The group participated in its first event on May 7, volunteering at the Kootenay Children’s Festival, which is in its thirtieth year. The “best weather in a long time” helped draw twice the anticipated crowds and the extra volunteers were much appreciated.

CUPE Seeds of Change volunteers gave away foam footballs and Frisbees by getting interactive with the crowd, and making a game of it. About 28 volunteers also helped with children’s face painting, cookie decorating, and button making.

They were joined by international students from Japan and Korea, College of the Rockies faculty association members (CORFA), and members of the Community Choir.

Walker, noting that “everyone did a lot,” gave kudos to Addyson, the nine-year old daughter of CUPE member Melissa Willman: “She not only painted faces, she tirelessly staffed the button making machine – and did a better job than the adults.”

The Locals hope that the network of volunteers will just keep growing. Already people at the College are thinking of creating a student or College of the Rockies version of Seeds of Change, and a local small business is interested in connecting with the group.

“Our members, working in solidarity with other Locals and community groups under the CUPE Seeds of Change umbrella, have helped make our community strong,” said Pam Catsirelis, President of CUPE Local 2773, College of the Rockies support staff. “Our Local is proud of everything this group has accomplished.”

The event was a win-win for everybody: parents, kids, volunteers, and the community.

The Locals are getting together to plan other events they would like to be involved with and hope to create a web site. Together the locals cover the southeast corner of the Province including the cities of Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie, Sparwood, Jaffray, Elkford, Golden, Invermere, and Kimberley.

Visit the CUPE BC gallery to view photos.

COPE 491