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Kelowna, British Columbia, may not be Canada’s biggest or even most well-known city. But it’s one of its most dangerous.
In 2012, there were an alarming 8,875 reported crimes in the small inland city that has a population of about 100,000 residents, giving Kelowna the distinction of having Canada’s highest crime rate. And the number of property crimes there is still growing, having increased 7% in recent years.
Just three years earlier, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dispatched a special brigade to Kelowna to deal with the city’s out of control street gang wars. And the city is perhaps best known outside of Canada for the violent riots that broke out there in the late 1980s during its annual summer Regattas.
But despite its past hard times, the city of Kelowna has always been known for its generosity. And some of its residents lived up to that reputation recently by teaming up to make a very special donation to a local food bank: A brand new electric forklift.
A Tale of Two Cities
Kelowna is nestled at western edge of the Canadian Rockies on the banks of Okanagan Lake. In summer, it’s a bustling metropolis that hosts thousands of tourists who flock to the area for skiing, hiking and the nationally-famous annual Kelowna Regatta.
Kelowna may not have the glitz and glamorous as Vancouver, the next closest city that lies about 230 miles to the west. But it holds its own as a summer destination.
But in the winter, Kelowna is an entirely different city.
During the long cold winters of central British Columbia, sunlight can be scarce. And so can food for many of Kelowna’s most impoverished residents.
The Kelowna Community Food Bank first started providing food for Kelowna’s neediest residents in 1983. Since then, it has grown from serving 600 people per year to nearly 2,500 people per month, a third of whom are children younger than 16.
Lenetta Parry, the food bank’s executive director, said volunteers frequently have to carry much of the donated food donated to the center on their backs, or occasionally borrow a forklift from its neighbor, Monashee Manufacturing, a generous nearby business.
A Helping Hand
But now — thanks to a group of 20 Kelowna business owners who pooled their funds to purchase the food bank’s new electric forklift — the charity will be able to service the needs of the city’s poorest residents more effectively.
“The forklift will allow the Kelowna Food Bank’s warehouse to be more efficient by stocking more food more quickly and on higher shelves,” Parry told the website Kelowna Now. “Our warehouse is very much an active, working warehouse. We collect, warehouse and distribute about $3.5 million dollars’ worth of food per year. The reality is that there are times when a forklift is mandatory.”
Bruce Maki — of Smart Betty Media, one of the Kelowna businesses that contributed to the forklift fund — said business owners in the city just wanted to do something to help out the people who needed it the most.
“We are a company that likes to give back to our community in a significant way,” Maki said. “In the spring of 2014, we toured the warehouse and were able to gain a better understanding of the work the Kelowna Food Bank does and the impact this organization has on our community. It was identified that a forklift was on the Food Bank’s wish list and so our team go to work.”
Kelowna may have a long way to go to fix its crime rate and rebuild its damaged reputation, but thanks to group of civic-minded angels, the hardscrabble Canadian city is fighting its way back one forklift at a time.