Our Community: Get Garry oak meadows ready for spring

Join the Garry Oak Meadow Marathon, which consists of about 30 volunteer events in February to help get Garry oak meadows ready in time for spring.

Volunteers can choose from more than a dozen activities — from bashing broom and eradicating ivy, to tending native seedlings and tidying trails.

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“February is a key time of year to get out into our Garry oak meadows to pull invasive non-native plants so that the true nature of these places can flourish. By March, the meadows can be too sensitive to handle the intensive weeding that needs to happen each year to keep invaders in check,” said Travis Muir, conservation and engagement co-ordinator with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The Garry Oak Meadow Marathon is designed to raise awareness and support restoration efforts on southern Vancouver Island. Garry oak habitats range from woodlands to open meadows and are home to a greater diversity of plants than any other terrestrial ecosystem in British Columbia.

As an incentive, volunteers who come to three or more events at three different sites will be entered in a draw to win nature prizes.

Events are being hosted by Capital Regional District Parks, Saanich Parks and Recreation, Parks Canada, Habitat Acquisition Trust, Greater Victoria Green Team, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Friends of Cedar Hill Park, Friends of Uplands Park, Mattocks Stewardship Group and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The volunteer marathon will culminate in a volunteer day at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve in Duncan, one of the largest and most significant remnants of deep-soil Garry oak sites left on the Island.

For more information and to see a calendar of events, go to natureconservancy.ca/ meadowmarathon.

Local artist selected by Ducks Unlimited

Morning Row, a painting by Victoria artist Deborah Czernecky, has been selected for Ducks Unlimited Canada’s 2018 national collection.

Czernecky donated the artwork, one of 11 pieces selected from hundreds of submissions, to raise funds to support wetland conservation. She joins some of Canada’s most prestigious nature artists, who have been featured in the portfolio.

“The National Art Portfolio is a unique program that not only promotes our country’s outstanding nature artists, but the growing need to conserve the natural areas that inspire their work,” said Michaela Bell, the organization’s national manager of retail operations.

Paintings selected for the portfolio are made into high-quality prints for use in fundraising. Money raised supports wetland conservation work, scientific research and education programs.

Czernecky said she was inspired to paint Morning Row while kayaking one misty, early morning, when the fisherman and rowboat featured in the painting silently appeared out of the mist.

“We didn’t truly acknowledge each other as we were both taking that moment to appreciate the serenity of Mother Nature,” Czernecky said.

Artwork by Czernecky and other artists is being sold at Ducks Unlimited community fundraising events, on art-auction easels in businesses across the country and online.

Wetlands are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet. They naturally clean water, prevent floods and droughts, and help mitigate the effects of climate change by holding large amounts of carbon. For more information, go to ducks.ca.

Hungry Hearts raises $145,000 for Our Place 

Hungry Hearts, a fundraiser competition in which five top local chefs use their culinary expertise to create the most popular, sea-inspired savoury bite, raised more than $145,000 for Our Place.

At the sold-out event, which took place on Wednesday, guests were invited to “vote with their heart” for their favourite dish.

In a finger-licking finish, chef Castro Boateng of catering firm House of Boateng took home the Hungry Hearts Top Chef trophy for the third time by creating an African twist on fish and chips.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the community,” said Don Evans, executive director of Our Place. “This strong support will enable us to continue with many of our life-transforming programs and services to assist people in crisis.”

The event was presented by PwC Canada and hosted at the Inn at Laurel Point.

Other competing top chefs were Tyler Paquette of Fish Hook, Austin Lu of Inn at Laurel Point, Nicholas Waters of Toque Catering and Kevin Macneil of Whole Foods.

Our Place chefs Cassie and Erica created a special vegetarian dish and Cakes Etc. served up decadent desserts. Philanthropist Eric Charman was on hand to conduct a live auction.

Our Place is an inner-city community centre serving Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable.

For more information, go to ourplacesociety.com.

SPCA is looking for volunteers 

Do you want to make a difference for animals in your community? Attend the B.C. SPCA’s Victoria Branch annual general meeting to find out how you can get involved, on Feb. 20 at the shelter.

At the meeting, you can learn more about the B.C. SPCA’s life-saving work to help the community’s vulnerable animals.

You can help by either working directly with animals or by offering other skills, such as administrative support, help with fundraising and public events, advocacy on local animal issues and other activities that support the work of the branch.

Last year, the Victoria branch helped nearly 1,500 abused, neglected, abandoned and injured animals.

The annual general meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the Victoria SPCA shelter, 3150 Napier Lane. For more information, call 250-388-7722 or go to spca.bc.ca.

Music brings joy to dementia patients 

Murray Tough needs help on his mission to bring music to elderly people suffering from dementia.

His volunteer-driven organization, Musical Memories, takes music to patients, many of whom are unable to go to common areas to take in social activities.

“Music brings great joy and creates connections for people who are isolated by their dementia,” said Tough, who is also the owner of Serenity Home Care.

Musical Memories is looking for volunteer musicians and venues they can perform in. Volunteer musicians should be willing to perform in private residences as well as facilities.

Anyone interested in donating time to perform, or have performers come to their facility or home should contact Tough at 250-590-8098 or murray@serentiyhomecare.ca.

It’s time again for naked bungee-jumping 

Will you take off your clothes and jump off a bridge? Almost 200 people are expected to bungee-jump in the buff at the Naked Bungy Jump for the B.C. Schizophrenia Society, Feb. 17 and 18 in Nanaimo.

Over two days, 160 participants (18 years or older) will take a leap off a 50-metre bridge at WildPlay Nanaimo.

“You’re kidding me, right?” is the question most often asked of Hazel Meredith, the executive director of the society’s Victoria branch.

“The outlandishness of the event makes people stop and think about the connection between the stigmas of fear and of mental illness. Our message is that by having faith in oneself and relying on the support of people around you, people can overcome their fear of the unknown.”

Last year, the event raised more than $34,000 in registration fees, donations and pledges. The awareness and funds help reduce the stigma of mental illness and support more than 4,000 people directly affected by schizophrenia.

Since its inception 12 years ago, 1,790 adults have taken part and have raised $188,271, enabling the society’s local chapter to supply an estimated 29,000 people with peer support, family support programs, information and a voice against stigma.

Naked Bungy Jumps are offered at a special rate of $55 with pre-registration. Organizers recommend booking a spot early. Participants can take part for free if they collect and turn in pledges of $200 or more before the event — which will also be doubled (up to $25,000) — through the generosity of a longstanding anonymous donor.

People on the shy side can bungy jump clothed for the regular rate of $129.99. Spectators (ages 18 or older) are welcome to cheer on the participants for a $15 donation.

The event runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 17 and 18 at WildPlay Element Parks, 35 Nanaimo River Rd., Nanaimo.

For more information, go to wildplay.com/nakedbungy or call 1-855-595-2251.

211 Day builds awareness of help line

Today is 2-1-1 Day across Canada and the U.S. The day builds awareness of bc211, a free, confidential help service created in partnership with the United Way.

Last June, in collaboration with United Ways across B.C., the online version of bc211.ca expanded to serve all of the province. In September, United Way Greater Victoria facilitated the addition of phone and text capabilities to bc211 service on the Island.

“Bc211 means that help is available 24/7, when and where people need it, a concept important to United Way,” said Patricia Jelinski, president and CEO of United Way Greater Victoria. “People have complex needs. Information specialists at 211 help people navigate the range of programs and services that are available to help no matter the issue.”

Statistics tracked by bc211 create a snapshot of local needs.

Housing and homelessness were the top reasons for Vancouver Island residents to contact bc211. After housing, the top reasons were: Mental health, income and financial assistance, substance use and health.

Recognizing the concerns involving housing and homelessness, United Way Greater Victoria has worked with Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Plan partners to create the Shelter and Street Help Line via 2-1-1. The help line assists people to find a warm place to stay on any given night and helps front-line responders direct people in need to shelters where beds or mats are available.

More than 100 people have been helped by the Shelter and Street Help Line since it launched Nov. 30.

For more information, go to uwgv.ca.

HeartGrams deliver treats for a cause

Give your Valentine a treat and give back to the community with a HeartGram this year.

Each HeartGram consists of a witty card and deluxe chocolates wrapped up and delivered by HeartPress PR.

One dollar from every HeartGram will be donated to a cause of the purchaser’s choice.

Card designer BooToYou offers 13 card designs to choose from. They range from the sweet to the racy and hilarious — including some that are sure to make your grandmother blush.

Once you find the perfect card and choose your chocolates, you can choose to have your HeartGram delivered to either a few select blocks of downtown businesses or one of the pickup locations.

HeartGrams are on sale and can be purchased online at heartpress.ca.

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