The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) has celebrated five volunteers from across the regionsl district that have put in hours of their own time to help their communities.
In Area A, well-known Fernie local Brent Bidston was nominated and won 2020 volunteer of the year.
Bidston, who is the co-founder of Angel Flight East Kootenay has flown dozens of flights for the charity, taking folks in need of a lift to much needed medical care in Kelowna.
Brent has been flying for Canadian Air Search and Rescue since 2012 and spends 200 to 250 hours each year training navigators, spotters and new volunteer pilots as well as flying when a rescue is called.
He has also volunteered for 13 years at Fernie Alpine Resort as a Ski Patroller in winter and for five years in summer; has assisted with the South East Rockies Grizzly Bear Census for four years; and has spent 10 years volunteering as a paramedic and bike mechanic to the Highline 100 bike race.
RDEK Area A Director Mike Sosnowski said that Bidston was an inspiration.
“From starting up Elk Valley Air Search and Rescue, to volunteering as a ski patroller or setting up the Angel Flight program for the East Kootenay, Brent’s entire life it devoted to supporting and helping others. He is an incredible example of selflessness and an inspiration for so many in this Valley.”
Requests for help from Angel Flight East Kootenay have gone up 400 per cent as 2020 wore on, with 103 people helped so far.
A return flight from the Elk Valley to Kelowna can cost on average of $500. Patients who are helped by Angel Flight East Kootenay can get a lift free of charge.
Of East Kootenay folks helped so far to get to Kelowna, the vast majority are from the Cranbrook (47) and Elk Valley (28) area, with others from Creston, Nelson and Invermere hitching a ride.
To learn more about Angel Flight East Kootenay, whether to donate or inquire about their service – find them online, but make sure to specify East Kootenay in your search, lest you end up reading about an unrelated charity.
Other volunteers of the year were Bonnie Crosson in Area B, Larry Gould in Area E, Lyle Wilson in Area F and Hedi Trescher in Area G.