Our Community: Agency seeks reading partners for kids

Victoria Literacy Connection is launching a new reading-support program and is looking for volunteers to help children practise their reading.

The organization is launching Reading Partners in several Greater Victoria elementary schools to help reluctant readers gain the crucial reading skills they need to succeed at school.

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“Studies have shown that children who are not reading at grade level by the end of Grade 4 often struggle with reading for the rest of their lives,” said Barbara Newton, Victoria Literacy Connection chair. “This program is designed to give children the boost they need to become capable and independent readers.”

Volunteers will work with children once a week during school hours for periods of up to two hours, by listening to them read, encouraging them and assisting with comprehension. Volunteers will receive training and regular followup.

A criminal record check is required and will be facilitated by the office.

The Victoria Literacy Connection helps children, youth and adults improve their literacy skills, including reading, writing, math and computer skills, by providing tutoring and other programs in a variety of settings.

To apply, email childco@victorialiteracyconnection.ca or call 250-385-0014.

For more information, go to victorialiteracyconnection.ca.

Plumbing firm gets in spirit of season

Jarod Hughes is expecting the phone for his Rather Be Plumbing business to ring off the hook as he offers free plumbing to the needy for a second year in a row.

His early Christmas present to the community was well received last year — especially by a woman who hadn’t had water since Canada Day.

“Her hot water tank burst and it flooded her house,” said Hughes, the company owner. “She tried to fit it herself and ended up with the municipality turning off her water — meaning she couldn’t have a shower for weeks. She had to get buckets of water from neighbours to use her toilet.”

Callers are typically on fixed incomes and few have the resources to afford paying $70 an hour for plumbing services.

“It’s just our way of giving back to the community,” he said.

He works for free and he compensates his staff of four with regular wages to attend to the five or six free calls a day. He estimates the free services amount to more than $4,000.

While he offers free labour, he asks people to pay for any materials needed.

The free plumbing offer runs for three days, starting Tuesday. He asks that only people who truly can’t afford plumbing take advantage of the offer.

For more information, go to ratherbeplumbing.com.

First responders get a free coffee

First responders going for a coffee at the Royal Jubilee Hospital might be pleasantly surprised to find their bill already paid this holiday season, thanks to a member of the public wishing to show her appreciation for their services.

Heather MacAndrew recently bought some pre-paid gift cards at both Good Earth and Tim Hortons coffee shops in the hospital. Instead of taking them home, she left the cards behind.

Her instructions to staff were that they were to be used whenever a first responder comes in for coffee.

She was inspired by another Heather — Heather Kennedy — who did the same thing last year.

“I thought this was such a thoughtful and practical idea to show some appreciation for the people who are out there dealing with stuff most of us will never have to encounter,” she said in an email.

“They make the difference so often between life and death.”

Her hope is that others will be inspired to do the same. She says people don’t need to contact her.

“Any coffee shop around town will do. I am sure they can figure out how to do it themselves!”

Powers Up raises funds for Peers

Spend two nights throwing axes, win a $10,000 trip or spend a night of revelry, food and drink with a few ladies from the Cheesecake Burlesque at the Peers Powers Up fundraiser.

The fundraiser is hosted by the Peers Victoria Resource Society, which has been providing outreach, harm reduction and education services for people in the sex industry for more than 20 years.

Competing for dollars is always a challenge with more than 1,000 nonprofits in Greater Victoria. So the group wanted to do something that is meant to raise spirits, create memorable experiences and raise money for much-needed renovations to its facilities.

The first instalment is two nights of axe throwing at Axe & Grind, with snacks, Jan. 15 and 29, 2019. For more information on sponsorships, contact Gillie Easdon at peerscommunications@peers.bc.ca. or 250-888-7175. For tickets, go to safersexwork.ca.

Pioneering family honoured in Sooke

On Friday, Premier John Horgan honoured a pioneer Scottish immigrant and his family with the unveiling of a historic shield sign in Sooke.

John Muir settled with his family at Woodside in Sooke in 1851. The Muir family were pioneers in the forest industry. Their farm, now owned by the Glinz/Wilford family, is believed to be the longest continuously operating Canadian farm west of the Great Lakes.

The family were also pioneers in shipbuilding, building six vessels on the Sooke waterfront, from 1861 to 1878.

The historic shield sign, listing the ships, was unveiled by the premier near the water on Horne Road to recognize the contributions made by the family to the early development of British Columbia.

Generations of the family can be found at Sooke Millenium Memorial Park — a regional heritage site and Sooke’s first cemetery, at 1971 Maple Ave.

For more information, go to sookeregionmuseum.com.

Art gallery celebrates meaning of home

Explore complex ideas about what it means to come home through art exploration, performance, family and food at Home for the Holidays, a Family Sunday celebration, with special guests Farheen Haq, her son Cairo and CBC’s Khalil Akhtar, today at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Farheen Haq is a South Asian Muslim Canadian artist. Khalil Akhtar is a regular on CBC Victoria’s On The Island.

Family Sunday at the art gallery is included with admission or purchase of a family membership. Alternatively, visitors can enjoy this event with their Library Family Access Pass or Warm Welcome Pass for Newcomers. The event runs 2 to 4 p.m. today at the gallery, 1040 Moss St. For more information, go to aggv.ca.

Students’ panels unveiled at Swan Creek

Grade 5 students from McKenzie, Glanford and Colquitz schools were on hand at the unveiling of two panels they helped create at a ceremony on Thursday.

The art/interpretive sign project was overseen by local artist Carolyn Knight and sponsored by the Peninsula Streams Society.

Students created artwork and poetry about Swan Creek, salmon and other wildlife. Wayne Zawacki, a staff member with the District of Saanich, did the design work.

The two panels were installed on the wooden footbridge on Swan Creek.

The event was also attended by teachers and school district staff, Saanich staff, Friends of Swan Creek Watershed volunteers and Peninsula Streams staff. For more information, go to peninsulastreams.ca.

Good citizens earn medals

Residents of Vancouver Island were well represented at the Medal of Good Citizenship awards this month, coming away with seven of 19 medals awarded to British Columbians for their outstanding community service.

Ronald Allen Greene of Oak Bay, Michael O. Langridge of Saanich, Beth Laur, Brandon Laur and Darren Laur of Langford, and Kris Patterson of Port Alberni each received recognition for their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life.

“It is an honour to congratulate these community leaders whose commitment helps strengthen our society,” said Premier John Horgan. “The Medal of Good Citizenship awards recognize these individuals and their remarkable contributions to our communities and our province as a whole.”

This year’s recipients were selected from a field of more than 100 nominations.

For more information, including how to nominate an unsung hero and role model, go to gov.bc.ca/medalofgoodcitizenship.

Jingle Mingle raises $754,000 for cancer

The B.C. Cancer Foundation’s 12th annual Jingle Mingle has raised $754,000 to underpin research on immunotherapy, one of the world’s most promising areas of oncology.

Funds will directly support groundbreaking immunotherapy development conducted at B.C. Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre, one of the first sites in the world to pioneer research of its kind.

The research will allow scientists to generate more precise and potent immune responses against cancer — and bring hope to British Columbians facing cancer on Vancouver Island and beyond.

“We’re immensely thankful to the Victoria community and are thrilled to be so close to the launch of our clinical trials of two promising new immunotherapies,” said Dr. Brad Nelson, director of the Deeley Research Centre. “This year’s event celebrates decades of critical research and without a doubt, 2019 will be our most exciting year yet.”

The Jingle Mingle has raised more than $7 million in its 12-year history.

The B.C. Cancer Foundation is the fundraising partner of the B.C. Cancer Agency.

For more information, go to bccancerfoundation.com.

Celebrate a life at hospice tree

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many people who have lost a loved one. Today is the last day of Celebrate a Life, a meaningful way to honour a loved one by hanging a personalized tribute ornament on a festive tree, at Tillicum Centre.

The annual holiday tradition, hosted by the Victoria Hospice, celebrates its 33rd year.

Hospice volunteers will be on hand to assist, provide information about hospice or just lend an ear.

“It’s important to be there for people who might be struggling to get through the season,” said hospice volunteer Gail Aldrete. “Taking a moment to remember a loved one and placing a tribute on the tree can help — it really means a lot to people.”

Volunteers will also expand the event to 10 retirement communities, bringing awareness of hospice programs directly to more local seniors.

The tree will be up until the end of the business day today at the Winner’s entrance of the shopping centre, 3170 Tillicum Rd. Tributes can also be made on the virtual Celebrate A Life tree at celebratealifevictoria.ca.

Mark the solstice with labyrinth walk

Take a break from the commercial activity of the holiday season by taking part in a community Winter Solstice Labyrinth Walk, Friday at Bethlehem Centre in Nanaimo.

This is the seventh year of the event to welcome the festive season.

Activities start at 4 p.m. with a by-donation chanting workshop. Supper starts at 5:30, with lantern-making at 6 and the outdoor labyrinth walk at 7 p.m.

Linger to chat and enjoy a cup of hot apple cider with cookies in the main building or take a tour of the Godden Finger Labyrinth Museum.

For more information, go to bethlehemcentre.com or telephone (250) 754-3254.

5,000 toys donated to Salvation Army

In the spirit of the holiday season, the Victoria Toys “R” Us location participated in the Salvation Army’s annual toy drive.

The store donated almost 5,000 toys to the annual toy drive.

Nationally, more than 600,000 toys were collected and distributed to Salvation Army community centres across Canada.

“We believe play is a right for children, so it’s incredibly rewarding for us to be able to make this donation and spread the joy of play this Christmas,” said Melanie Teed-Murch, president of Toys “R” Us Canada.

“We commend the Salvation Army for its efforts to support children and families in need and are proud to align ourselves with its toy drive initiative.”

For more information, go to toysrus.ca.

Gingerbread helps families

Take home a gingerbread family to help a needy family this holiday.

The Good Earth Coffeehouse is once again offering Gingerbread Families with a goal of raising more than $13,000 for local food banks.

The company will donate $1 to a local food bank for every Gingerbread Family sold. They are also encouraging customers to share a picture of the Gingerbread Family on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram with the hashtag #FamiliesFeedFamilies, with a further $1 donation for each post — up to $2,500.

Gingerbread Families are sold in gift bags of three cookies for $7.25 and are available at all Good Earth Coffeehouse locations and online until Dec. 31 (or while quantities last).

Last year, the company donated more than $11,000 to food banks.

For more information, go to goodearthcoffeehouse.com.

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