Remember to practice good social distancing techniques like the staff at the Fernie Salvation Army, who came up with this humorous tool. Photo Submitted

Elk Valley communities continue to inspire hope

Community members, business owners and more continue to support each other in creative ways

On April 3, Sparwood residents rallied together to create a community convoy of vehicles. Some cars were decorated with balloons flying out the window, while others had carefully crafted handmade signs. Some of the signs proclaimed “Happy Birthday” in colourful letters while others expressed a simple and sincere “Thank You.”

The drive by convoy, which included several fire trucks from the Sparwood Fire Department, started their journey by wishing young Maddex Pryhitko a happy sixth birthday. As Maddex stood outside his house, surrounded by his family and birthday balloons, a smile blossomed over his face. He held a sign that read “thank you” and waved vigorously to the many trucks and cars who drove by. Many rolled their windows down and shouted encouraging birthday messages for the youngster. His smile brightened all the more when he saw the bright red fire engines coming his way, sirens blaring.

According to mom Tamarra Pryhitko, Maddex was overjoyed to see the fire trucks and even said to his mother, “I must be pretty special because even the fire trucks came.”

“The drive thru was a basket full of every emotion,” said Pryhitko. “It brought tears of sadness and so much joy. We are proud to be a part of such an amazing community…We were humbled to be able to be the ones receiving and then get into our vehicle, join the convoy and give out thanks to all the essential workers.”

As the convoy continued throughout town, more cars joined in, making the convoy at least 50 cars long. The next drive by was on the main drag of town, where drivers honked their horns to celebrate all of the people still at work in restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and more. Eventually the convoy ended up in front of the Sparwood Health Centre where the honking and cheering intensified.

Several staff from the health centre came out to watch the heartwarming display of support and every driver and passenger had a thankful smile on their face as they drove by.

At approximately the same time, residents and community members were completing a similar drive thru in Elkford. These convoys have been spreading joy and happening more and more frequently thanks to a Facebook group called Birthday Drive Thru where community members gather to plan the events.

Although times are tough for many people right now, members of our community are really stepping up to make sure that joy and smiles are still being shared.

One new Fernie business is doing their part for the community in a unique way. The Fernie Fox Hotel, owned by Jeremiah and Marina Pauw, is offering free rooms to essential service workers who don’t want to risk going home to their families.

“The whole third floor, we’ve blocked off so any healthcare workers, police, any kind of essential worker that is really working towards fighting this COVID-19 thing, or they need to self isolate from their families can come,” Jeremiah Pauw explained. “For example, nurses who work at the hospital and don’t really want to go home to their kids after, they can come and stay here free of charge for as long as they need.”

The hotel made the offer on the day they closed their doors to the public, March 23. Since then, three people have checked in, with another four expected this week. Pauw noted that he receives calls every day from people who are curious about the service.

“I think it was a deed that was necessary,” Pauw said. “I don’t think these essential workers should have to pay out of their pocket for helping our community. We should help them out as much as we can because without them we’re in way worse trouble than we are now.”

If you are an essential service worker who is in need of a safe place to stay, you can contact Pauw at 250-278-6788 for more information.

While some community members are ensuring our healthcare workers have a safe place to lay their heads after a long day at work, others are trying to keep them safe while they are at work.

Last week, the College of the Rockies Fernie campus gathered supplies from their health and first aid programs and delivered the items to frontline workers in Fernie. This donation included masks and gloves and was accompanied by a message from the college.

“College of the Rockies employees are grateful for all of the frontline workers in healthcare and emergency services, pharmacy and grocery store employees, and all other essential workers who are working to keep our communities safe and healthy,” the college stated.

All in all, the college was able to distribute over 75,000 items to healthcare workers throughout the college region.

It seems that nowadays, everyone is doing their part to chip in and show up for our community in any way they can. As anxiety and fear spread with COVID-19, so too does kindness, happiness and joy.

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A family participates in the birthday drive thru for six-year-old Maddex Pryhitko. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

A convoy of vehicles drove by the Sparwood Health Centre to honk their horns in appreciation on April 3. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

A convoy of vehicles sporting encouraging signs drove by the Sparwood Health Centre on April 3 to thank front line healthcare workers for keeping communities safe. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

A Sparwood resident holds a thank you sign during a convoy drive thru. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

The convoy for Maddex Pryhitko’s birthday included several trucks from the Sparwood Fire Department, delighting the youngster. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

Anita Palmer, manager of the Fernie campus of College of the Rockies is seen collecting healthcare essentials for donation to front line healthcare workers. Photo Submitted

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