Climbing to the top…

Saturday night the hottest ticket in town was the 2nd Annual Rotary Spring Fling.  The Rotary Club of Port McNeill created the event last year to raise awareness and funds for an indoor climbing wall in the North Island Secondary School gym.  For many of the 100+ people in attendance it was their first view of the completed wall.  Interested climbers quickly signed a waiver, donned the proper gear and strategized their route of footholds to the top.

Acoustics in a school gym are always a challenge but local band The Shifters was a crowd pleaser performing sing along, make you want to dance oldies but goodies.

Well done !! to the 24 students involved in setting up the venue, meal prep and serving the meal.  Some of them are Interact members which is a service club for young people ages 12 to 18, sponsored & supported by the Rotary Club.  Interact fosters leadership, service to others and international understanding.  And a shout out to all the cooks in the kitchen — dinner was absolutely delicious !!  Big bowls of Greek and Caesar salad followed by a generous serving of lasagna. Garlic heaven !!  For those that still had room (heck ya I did) there was an ice-cream sundae bar with choices of sorbet, ice-cream, sprinkles and sauce.

After dinner the Masters of Ceremony Chris Stewart and Cheryl Jorgenson (who were an awesome tag team and no they didn’t pay me to say that) outlined the history of the climbing wall and the ongoing efforts.  The main focus of the this year’s fundraising however is the Rotary Trail.  Phase 1 of the trail leads from the intersection of Mine Road & Campbell Way to Hwy 19.  Phase 2 continued the trail from the t-intersection heading north to the first logging road creating a huge loop.  The vision is to extend the trail from the t-intersection of Hwy 19 & Campbell Way south to the airport.


After the dinner plates were cleared away the live auction started.  So here’s how it worked.  Donated items displayed on the tables were all numbered.  That number was placed in a helium balloon.  Then the auctioneers would tell us which category the balloon was in — either $30 to $50 range or $50 & up range. The successful bidder would then be given the balloon to pop and find out what number item they’d won.  Being a multi-generational event the first items were geared to the younger guests.  When all the balloons were purchased the auction moved onto the bigger items in a real live auction.  There was a signed Trevor Linden jersey, a trip to Nimmo Bay Resort, a helicopter ride with West Coast Helicopters and loads of gift certificates.

When I asked Rotary President Deborah Murray yesterday how much money they’d raised she told me they don’t have a final tally yet but it was a very successful event.

Coming up Saturday May 6th is the first Rugged & Wild Rotary Race a 10km run/walk/bike race.  Entry is $10 and there will be entertainment at the start/finish line.  The Farmer’s Market will also be set up onsite.  Murray envisions the race morphing into something runners/walkers will add to their list of events.  Next year there will be timers and participants will be given a number.

For more information visit on the race or Rotary Club please visit:

Chamber of Commerce Gala 2016

Once a year members of our business community and individuals gather together to celebrate excellence.  And the Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce really knows how to throw a party !! This year the event moved to the Lion’s Hall which was magically transformed with draped tulle, crisp white table linens and intimate lighting. The glamorous ambiance entirely fitting to honour this year’s nominees.

Multi-tasker extraordinaire Gaby Wickstrom was the master of ceremonies.  Wickstrom is not only this year’s Chamber President but also manages the organization from her home office: answering the phone, the email messages, attending conferences and meetings.  This night she was head cheerleader reminding us of the excellence & passion businesses and people provide the community.

Originally I was going to post a picture of my dinner.  Instead I’ll just mention the buffet was delicious and plentiful.  And the extra hot horseradish served with the roast beef was a big hit at our table *insert watering eyes here*.  Thanks Yanni and staff from the Sportsman Restaurant for all my favourite winter comfort food.  But I do digress.

Generous sponsor support enabled the Chamber to bring up Steven Falk and Richard Jansen, motivational speakers from “Switchback” who entertained and educated in their effective tag team delivery.  Their message was simple but profound.  Whether you’re a faller in the woods or a Chamber it’s essential to be on a team that comes together rather than falls apart when under pressure.  Not sure I’ve heard the word bullshit so many times in one presentation but it effectively underscored the negative, dark place we go when in fight or flight mode.

The Chamber Gala — a night to network, socialize, break bread together, learn a little something about teamwork & celebrate businesses and volunteers

New Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Carson Roofing Ltd.
Cluxewe Cafe & Waterfront Bistro
43K Wilderness Solutions
Flora Borealis
The Garden Shack Garden Centre
The Rock Pub

This company moved to the region in 2014. The owner is a home grown North Islander returning to the region, employing local people. They are known for quality work and excellent customer service. In a predominantly male led industry, this young woman is carving a name for herself.

New Business of the Year Winner — Carson Roofing Ltd.

Michelle Carson, owner of Carson Roofing Ltd. & Gaby Wickstrom, Chamber President

Small Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Absolutely Grape
The Bike Shed & Outdoor Store
Carson Roofing Ltd.
The Clothes Inn
Community Futures of Mount Waddington
Kal Tire
Mugz Coffee & Tea House
Ragged Edge Community Network
Robin’s Pet Supplies
Shoprite Marine
Timberland Sports Center

They go above and beyond with customer service and if they don’t have it in the store they will surely get it for you in a timely manner. They are supportive of the community and have a wide range of products for people of all income levels and interests. Their staff is friendly and knowledgeable and have created a biking group who are dedicated to improving people’s health.

Small Business of the Year winner — The Bike and Outdoor Store

Eva Koel, owner of The Bike & Outdoor Store and Michelle Alfred, Chamber Board Member

Home-Based Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Carson Roofing Ltd.
The Green Baron – Landscaping by Kirsten Baron
Kallie’s Kupcakes
Leanna Masterman – Epicure
Shayla Fraser- Steeped Tea
Trine Pederson – Hairdresser

This home business’s client base has grown from last year. They are committed to the Farmer’s Market and have an excellent product, customer service and customer loyalty. As a business owner they are involved in the community in many areas.

Home Based Business of the Year winner — Kallie’s Cupcakes

Katherine Tjepkema of Kallie’s Cupcakes & Gaby Wickstrom

Tourism Award

The nominees in this category were:
BC Ferries – Port McNeill Terminal
James Willson – Silver King Ventures
Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures
MacKay Whale Watching
Nimmo Bay Resort
North Island Marina
Stubbs Island Whale Watching
Telegraph Cove Resort

This business has dedicated their lives to tourism and is always full of people in the summer. They are expanding and upgrading their facilities each year. The owner has been involved with the regional tourism advisory committee. They hold annual events open to other communities. In the summer the place is a bustling community with people visiting from all over the world.

Tourism Award winner — Telegraph Cove Resort

Terrance Eissfeldt, Chamber Board Member & Geordie Graham, owner of Telegraph Cove Resort

Customer Service Excellence

The nominees in this category were:
Carson Roofing Ltd.
Jennie-Lynn Noel – Technician at People’s Drug Mart
Kayla Long – Tia’s Cafe
Kimberly Bentley – The Clothes Inn
Liquor Store Staff
Michelle Monk – The Bargain Shop
North Island Marina
Pharmacist Brittany Swanson – People’s Drug Mart
Robert Russell – The Shed Outdoor Store
Robin Neil – Robin’s Pet Supplies
Stacey Coy – Gus’s Pub

Some of the things said of this recipient were: She is always helpful and has a huge smile on her face when you come into the store. She will find what you need and goes out of her way to find it at the other store or order something in to keep customers happy. When you come out of the change room looking fabulous, she squeals and it’s an instant sale. She is an amazing person to deal with and work with.

Customer Service Excellence winner — Kimberly Bentley from The Clothes Inn

Shelley Frost, Chamber Board member & Kimberly Bentley from Clothes Inn

Professional Merit Award

The nominees in this category were:
Dr. Priean Armogam
Dr. Brian Bostrom – Dental Clinic
Brenda Isaac – VIHA
Christie Dreger – Community Futures
Greg Muirhead – Teacher at NISS, Fireman, Ranger
Jonathon Fintoft – Western Forest Products
Jonathon Lok – Strategic Natural Resource Consultants
Terrence Eissfeldt – West Coast Helicopters

This person is an active, gung-ho teacher of Outdoor Pursuits helping to mold young people into well rounded individuals. They are also involved with the Junior Canadian Rangers and the Fire Department.

Professional Merit Award — Greg Muirhead 

Greg Muirhead & Chris Stewart, Chamber Board member

Senior of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Clarice Newman
Gloria LeGal
Helen Scott
Joanne Parker
Kathy Martin
Lois Kollman
Paddy Hinton
Peter Barrett
Tom & Julia Hopkins

Some of the things said of this recipient were: A retired school teacher/principal Kathy Martin has spent her life caring about literacy by fostering a love of books & reading, through drama and education. A master grant writer Kathy wrote for and received funds for the Mother Goose program — a traveling bus full of books taking literacy to children on the North Island . Those same grant writing skills resulted in Missoula Children’s Theatre coming to Port McNeill many times over the years. Fostering creativity and engaging youth in the arts Missoula is an amazing program that takes a group of kids and in one week has them learn lines and perform a play for the community. Kathy is a past Rotary member where she was active in literacy programs such as Born to Read (packages for newborns) and selling books for beginner readers at Craft Fairs.

Senior of the Year winner — Kathy Martin (Unable to attend the gala)

Youth Entrepreneur Award
The nominees in this category are:
Danielle Lacasse
Mathew Harder

Both of these nominees are exceptional young people in our community. The recipient of this award is super involved in the community in many areas: guides, quatse hatchery, science fair, etc. She has her own photography business, is an honor roll student and an exemplary ambassador for our community.

Youth Entrepreneur Award winner — Danielle Lacasse

Danielle Lacasse is in the middle of the photo with her award, surrounded by other teachers & students from NISS

Innovation Award

From time to time the Chamber, where we see someone is achieving this, will give the innovation award to a business who truly thinks outside of the box in achieving success.

This year we are giving this award to a special group of young people who started a company with a vision of a better cup of coffee.  If you have not have the privilege to have a tour of their school and what they have achieved, you have missed out.  Their teacher Doug Abbot saw an opportunity and allowed the students to run with it.  In building their business they collaborated with many disciplines: computer science, woodworking, metalwork and the list goes on.  Prior to the tour, I had no idea what went into roasting a coffee bean.  They are garnering attention from other Island schools and this summer they provided all the coffee for Kingfisher kayak tours.

Innovation Award winner — 1Eleven Roasting Company – NISS Students

Damaris Sadler, Chamber Board member, Adrian Pendergast & Doug Abbot both teachers at NISS & Gaby Wickstrom

Community Spirit Award
The nominees in this category were:
The Gazette Hamper Fund
Christina Hinton
Jay Dixon
Jessica Brown
North Island Farmer’s Market
Port McNeill Events Committee
Port McNeill Kids in Motion
Port McNeill Rotary Club
Robin Neil – Robin’s Pet Supplies
Steve & Jessica Jackman – North Island Marina
Terry Eissfeldt – The Gate House Community Association
Annie LeBlanc

This group of people is dedicated to developing a market where locally produced products are sold. This little organization has grown every year, is inclusive of the other regions and is involved in establishing food security for the North Island. They work incredibly hard not only to develop their own products, but support one another in order to be successful. They are inclusive of all communities and try to rove around the island so that they have a presence in each community.

Community Spirit Award winner — The North Island Farmers and Artisans Market Association

Neva Perrott, Shannon Shepley & Gaby Wickstrom

Chamber Spirit Award

This special award is given to a chamber person who is dedicated to building up the business community. This year’s recipient has owned many businesses through the years. She is a passionate community person, who is known to give back. It’s in her nature to make her community better. She is supportive of business and always looks at ways where we as a Chamber can serve to make the business climate better. She has volunteered as our Treasurer for the last year and a half.

Chamber Spirit Award winner — Annie Leblanc (Unable to attend the gala)

Community Arts Award

The nominees in this category were:
Alana Collins – Portside Dance Academy
Gate House Theatre
Heather Brown – Artist
Pewi Alfred – First Nations Dance and Language/Alert Bay
Teresa Charlton – Highland Dance
Wild Heart Music

Some of the things said of this recipient were: They have successfully run for the last four years and have branched out into many communities. They perform, bring in professionals for young people to work with and sing with enthusiasm. Their program has been approved by the School District 7 schools and participating with: NISS, AJ Elliott, Sunset, Cheslakees, Sea View, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw & Eke Me-xi Learning Centre.

Community Arts Award winner — Wild Heart Music

Katherine Wykes, Roma Joseph, Linda Waines, Deborah Murray all from Wild Heart Music & Gaby Wickstrom

Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:

Carson Roofing
Coastal Community Insurance Services
Cluxewe Waterfront Bistro
Mugz Coffee & Tea House
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
Petro Canada- Port McNeill & Hyde Creek
North Island Marina & Fuel Dock
Robin’s Pets Supplies
The Rock Pub
The Shed Outdoor Store
Strategic Natural Resource Consultants
Timberland Sports Centre
West Coast Helicopters Maintenance & Contracting Ltd.

This winner meets and exceeds the criteria of their nomination.  They employ our youth, providing them with valuable work experience and morals.  Each time I go there I am greeted by a working student or local and I recognize that importance.  The ambiance there is great and offers peace, quiet and privacy if you want it.  You can pop in for a quick specialty coffee or stay awhile in a relaxing ambiance with some great comfort food.  They are community minded donating gift certificates & coffee/goodies to many local events.

Business of the Year winner — Mugz Tea & Coffee House (Unable to attend the gala)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners and special thanks to the sponsors and those who donated to the silent auction.  Each one of you helped make the Gala a sparkling success.

For more information on the Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce visit their website at:, email them at or call 250-230-9952.

Great Things Brewing

Chamber of Commerce members followed the aroma of coffee for the most recent Member to Member meeting Wednesday April 15th at North Island Secondary School (NISS).  The meeting was hosted by 1-11 Roasting, a student operated coffee roasting company.
This innovative program started with a student looking for another block in Doug Abbot’s Learning Assistance classroom. Abbot explains, “I thought we could do more than that so I offered him an entrepreneurial studies block and he build the very first coffee roaster and started roasting coffee. He built a vacuum brewer and started brewing it and selling it to teachers twice a day.” Teachers being a great market for coffee and requests from people wanting to buy bags of coffee led to a successful fundraiser for the girl’s soccer team.  The program got more popular, involving more students and it quickly became apparent to Abbot that it was bigger than one student and himself.
His enthusiasm contagious, Abbot is a huge cheerleader for the program and building relationships with other departments and the community. “It’s interesting how many students were connecting to this and feeling positive about it and learning a lot from the experience of running a business.” Abbot continues, “this wasn’t sitting around and talking hypotheticals, we weren’t doing worksheets, we were actually running a business. And this thing could succeed or it could fail. The more real we can make this for our students, the more they engage, the better they’re going to learn, the more fun they’re going to have.”image

According to Abbot the first roaster was a brilliant design but something more high quality and safer was required.  A team of students and teachers sat down and started designing a new one (shown above).  It took about three months and Abbot praises the design as “phenomenal.”  Not pretty perhaps but the stainless steel drum inside an aluminum body is hooked up to a computer with thermometers & roaster all talking to each other.  Add engineering, woodworking, computer science and electrical experience to an impressive list of skills students are learning.

And with a second hand espresso machine to be plumbed in, the next phase of the project is teaching students barista skills.  Abbot points out, “there are world championship barista competitions.  This is something we could eventually look forward to – having some really awesome baristas coming out of this school.  Some people make a living, a career out of being a barista.  There’s a real art that goes along with that.  So we’re focusing on all sides of coffee including where the coffee comes from.”  Brazil is no longer just a name on a map to students but the place where they buy beans directly from a farmer.  Abbot says the students “are learning a lot about social issues and what we can do in Canada to help.  We believe the farmers deserve to make enough to survive so we’re learning how through business we can not only make a difference in our community but the world.”

Jay Dixon, Principal of NISS wants to ensure 1-11 Roasting is a legacy for future students and states, “our long term vision is a drive through coffee shop on our property similar to the one in Port Hardy across from Home Hardware and to have that building constructed by our shop students and managed through our entrepreneur students.  Have it so that you can drive through to buy a bag of coffee or have students sell you a coffee.”  Not waiting for handouts from the provincial government Dixon adds, “we’re going to build programming that’s unique to the North Island and we’re going to be entrepreneurs.”

When students are working on big orders they set up stations in a classroom with students responsible for weighing, labeling, bagging and in charge of quality control of each bag of coffee.  Art students designed the company logo and a booth at the Christmas Craft Fair in December gave students invaluable experience dealing with the public while selling more than 80 pounds of coffee. Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures and Strategic Natural Resource Consultants are two local companies using 1-11’s coffee.

To order coffee from 1-11 Roasting visit their website at:

Photo credit – Gaby Wickstrom