Central Okanagan Food Bank is open for those in need

Food bank offers help to all

Many residents have been laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the Central Okanagan Food Bank wants anyone struggling financially to know, they're here to help.

“As we enter a new month amid this pandemic with rent, mortgage and utility payments due, we are becoming increasingly concerned for those who feel the pressures of having to decide between purchasing food and paying their bills,” says Tammie Watson, chief development officer of the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

“Our message to everyone in this predicament is to please pay your bills and let us help you with your food.”

The Central Okanagan Food Bank provides monthly food hampers to Kelowna and West Kelowna residents in need. The hampers include fresh produce, meat, dairy and bread, as well as non-perishable pantry staples. 

‘We have been experiencing an influx of new clients, often time folks who never would have imagined they would need our help,” says Trevor Moss CEO of the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

“We will continue to be here for all our neighbours in need to provide the most nutritional food as possible, as the city continues to deal with the current crisis.”

A new client registration system will be available online starting Monday, but for those in the community who haven't visited the food bank in the past and need help now, can call 250-763-7161 to book an appointment. 

The Central Okanagan Food Bank assists over 4,000 individuals every month, 33 per cent of which are children under the age of fifteen, and another 12 per cent are seniors living on a fixed income.

Financial donations are greatly appreciated at this time.  


Some local restaurants are making take-out and delivery work

Making take-out food work

A couple Kelowna restaurants are finding some success with their take-out and delivery options.

Last month, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered the closure of in-house dining at all B.C. restaurants, due to lack of physical distancing available. As a result, some local restaurants have temporarily closed, while others have tried shifting their business model to solely take out and delivery through services like Skip the Dishes and DoorDash.

Jack's Pizza & Liquor and Salt & Brick, which share ownership, teamed up last weekend, offering food and alcohol to go. And so far, so good.

“It's obviously not as good as being open could be, but Friday night was really good, Saturday night was really solid and Sunday night was way better than our last Sunday,” said Brian Atkinson, general manager at Jack's.

“When Salt & Brick came over, that was a big change for us. Chef James Holmes (at Salt & Brick) is well known in this community, and some of his staples, like the Brussels sprouts, the Smash Burger, mac and cheese, heirloom roasted carrots, people go to Salt & Brick for those items.”

Jack's and Salt & Brick were forced to lay off most of their staff last month, as did most restaurants in town. Atkinson said they've been operating with one chef and one front-of-house staff member, on a rotating basis, while they're opened for delivery and pickup Wednesday through Sunday.

“Because there is no real other alternative, this is viable and we've got to just keep pushing forward with that,” he said.

Last weekend, the restaurants saw about 60 per cent of their sales as deliveries. Atkinson says he expects more deliveries moving forward, as people become more used to self isolating.

Last month, the provincial government temporarily amended the Liquor Control Act to allow liquor deliveries from restaurants, but the alcohol is not allowed to be pre-mixed into cocktails. Atkinson say they're working to put together to-go cocktail kits that abide by the new rules and he's hoping to have them ready for this coming weekend.

“Keep supporting local,” he said. “Supporting the community and independent business is going to go a long way to having these businesses around when everything goes back to the way it was.”

YMCA of Okanagan now offering online classes, support groups

YMCA online classes

YMCA of Okanagan is offering a variety of online services to keep your mind, body and spirit healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the YMCA we pride ourselves on always being there for the communities we serve,” says YMCA of Okanagan CEO Sharon Peterson. “We are committed to supporting individuals with their health goals, which include providing resources for their mental, physical and emotional health during this pandemic." 

"We are all trying to adjust to a new normal and it has not been easy for most. Our commitment to you, is that we will continue to provide opportunities for you and your family to stay connected and active throughout this difficult time.” 

The online fitness classes include Y Thrive Home which has a variety of options for all ages.

“This is an excellent free online platform to help keep all of us healthy and active,” says Peterson. “Everyone is welcome and workouts are tailored for all levels and audiences including adults, families, kids and seniors.”

YMCA of Okanagan has also launched live classes on Facebook and Instagram.

“Our first Facebook live class saw nearly 80 people in attendance,” says Peterson. “Facebook and Instagram live classes provide a great virtual alternative for those who enjoy the group participation and community feeling that our regular group fitness classes provide." 

"We will be offering a few regular classes to start, with a goal of adding more options to our virtual fitness class schedule as demand grows. Between our live classes and Y Thrive Home videos we have something for every age and ability.”

All classes can be found here.

YMCA has also launched the YMCA Early Years Community Facebook group which offers educational resources and live sessions for families with kids up to six-years-old. Live sessions include story times, songs, crafts and other activities for at home.

YMCA's Career Development Services is now virtual as well, providing free online group services for individuals 16 to 30-years-old. Through phone, email and video chat, the services will help those who are struggling with their job search. It will offer help to enhance personal, educational and employment opportunities.  


Okanagan College passes 2020-2021 budget virtually

New $126M budget unveiled

Okanagan College has passed a $126.8 million budget for the coming year, despite the challenging circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board approved the budget on Tuesday, gathering virtually through an online meeting platform instead of meeting in person. 

Board president Jim Hamilton says OC intend to continue offering as many of its learning programs at all four major campuses, despite the changes they've had to make due to the pandemic. 

“The very nature of the meeting drove home the fact that circumstances are changing rapidly. We fully recognize the budget was passed as a starting place while the uncertainty associated with the pandemic resolves itself.

"We intend to continue to offer as many of those as possible."

The budget was pre-set before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and before colleges and universities throughout British Columbia cancelled classes or moved to online learning. 

OC vice-president of employee and corporate services Curtis Morcom says they will continue to monitor the situation going forward, and make necessary adjustments. 

“In the last three weeks things have changed dramatically and we cannot precisely forecast how these changed circumstances will affect our operations, especially revenue and expenses. There are uncertainties about how long the current situation will last and about what it will do to enrolments or costs. We have been and will be monitoring the impact on operations and will be adjusting expenditures accordingly.”

Students will be expected to engage in online learning to advance

No free pass for students

Despite what the Education Minister may have suggested when he announced the suspension of K-12 classes amidst the coronavirus pandemic, students in the Central Okanagan will not be getting a free pass to the next grade.

Central Okanagan School District superintendent Kevin Kaardal joined board chair Moyra Baxter Tuesday for a virtual town hall on education hosted by Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick.

Kaardal explained students will be expected to complete the work given to them by teachers online if they want to advance a grade or graduate. 

“We are a semester school system, and we are about a third of the way through the semester, so we really don’t believe any student currently is in a position to graduate,” Kaardal said.

“There will be some more engagement that they are required to do. If they engage with our teachers, and do the work that they are supposed to do, then yes we believe that every one of them will graduate.”

He said teachers are in the process of reaching out to parents to address their needs to determine the best way to deliver education remotely, be it through Zoom video conferencing, Google classroom, or just paper and a telephone.

Kaardal noted Telus and Shaw are offering free basic internet to low-income families during the pandemic. 

“Parents are not expected to teach their children,” Baxter said. “Our teachers will be figuring out how to do that. In those most extreme cases, where there just isn’t an opportunity for online support we will be providing some traditional methods.”

Kaardal said teachers will be working on delivering core competencies to students, focusing on the quality of projects rather than time spent on a subject.

In the Central Okanagan, about 550 students will be heading back to school next week for in-class instruction. The provincial government has asked that the school district facilitate learning for children of “Tier 1” frontline workers — those in health services, social services, law enforcement and first responders.

Kaardal said those students will be limited to just six per classroom in desks spread apart from one another.

Children of “Tier 2” workers — other essential services — may be accepted down the road.

Firefighters jump on brush fire along Kelowna's Mill Creek

Mill Creek fire suspicious

UPDATED: 3:45 p.m.

Kelowna Fire Department platoon captain John Kelly has confirmed today's brush fire at Mill Creek is considered suspicious.

Several 911 calls reporting smoke coming from the Mount Baldy area were received by dispatchers at about 12:30 p.m.

Kelowna Fire Department responded with two engines, two bush units, a water tender, ATV, command vehicle and fourteen personnel.

The fire was contained to about 100 x 60 ft. in size.

It is not yet known what caused the fire or how it started.

ORIGINAL: 1:30 p.m.

The Kelowna Fire Department has contained a brushfire along Mill Creek at the end of McCurdy Road.

Emergency crews were called to the blaze around 1 p.m. and staged on both Mount Baldy Drive and McCurdy Place. Crews initially had some difficulty accessing the creeping ground fire on the west side of the creek. 

Firefighters tell Castanet the blaze is still active, but has now been contained. Crews made access to the blaze with an ATV and are drawing water out of the creek to help in the fight. 

With little wind, crews are not worried about it spreading.

It’s not clear yet what started the fire, but there were people camping in the area yesterday.

RCMP and Kelowna bylaw are also on scene.

Kelowna RCMP providing no info on weekend's investigation

No info on RCMP's search

The Kelowna RCMP won't say what a dozen of their officers were looking for in East Kelowna over the weekend.

Saturday afternoon, a number of unmarked police vehicles lined O'Reilly Road, and about a dozen officers spent the day searching through the wooded areas along O'Reilly and Dunsmuir roads.

The officers were carrying large sticks and appeared to be searching for evidence.

Another Castanet reader spotted a group of officers off East Kelowna Road, near the East Kelowna Ball Fields.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Kelowna RCMP said they “cannot confirm any information this matter at this time, other than to say that the matter we were investigating poses no risk to the public.”

The investigation came days after Kelowna's first homicide of 2020. A man was found shot to death inside a vehicle on Upper Mission's Trumpeter Court late just before midnight on March 24.

Police have been equally tight-lipped on that investigation.

“At this point we are not releasing any further information in regards to this matter as our investigators do not wish to compromise the investigation in any way,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said last week.

The identity of the victim, or if he was known to police, has not been disclosed by police, but last week, police said they believed it was a targeted killing. The Kelowna RCMP has not said if any arrests have been made.

Friends of Dorothy Lounge introduces drag queen delivery service

Delivery is a drag

Looking for a little extra in your delivery service? 

Kelowna's Friends of Dorothy Lounge has launched a delivery service like no other, with the help of local drag queens.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants have been forced to close their doors, turning to takeout and delivery services only. After being open for only six weeks, owner Rudy Tomazic says the transition he had to make due to the virus was "tragic."

"The lounge is not open, so we're trying to find ways to lighten the air a bit because it's a little heavy," says Tomazic. "We should be careful and practicing the social distancing that we all need to abide by, but we really wanted to add a little bit of fun."

Local queens Freida Whales and Ginger Snapp have stepped up to help deliver the restaurant's new takeout menu, featuring pizzas all named after famous RuPaul's Drag Race drag queens, lamb ribs, beef ribs, charcuterie, pretzel bites and more.

Wine, beer and ciders are also available for order and there are also vegan and gluten free options available.

"It's been difficult for all of us, I mean theres a lot of people impacted by this from servers to dishwashers to cooks to bartenders to business owners. So we're all really trying to pull together and create innovative new ways to support each other," says Tomazic.

The queens will follow safety protocols based off of recommendations from health officials to ensure everyone receives their food safely. Orders will be placed over the phone at 1-236-420-4565 and delivery starts at $5. The queens will not accept cash or tips at the door, payment and tips must be handled over the phone. 

The queens will wear gloves during deliveries and will place the order in a preferred area.

Friends of Dorothy will also be donating $5 from each order to frontline workers in the community.

"We really want to support the locals that are out there on the frontline, from grocery store workers to nurses to doctors and anybody I didn't mention. You know who you are and we support all of you," says Tomazic. 

Delivery is available everyday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. To view the menu click here.

Speed cameras now active at 2 Kelowna intersections

Speed cameras now active

Drivers in a hurry are on notice: the British Columbia government says 34 speed cameras at high-risk intersections around the province, including two in Kelowna, are operating and ready to ticket motorists.

A statement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says all the cameras are now operating around the clock.

They not only identify drivers running red or yellow lights, they also monitor speed, snapping a photo of the fastest vehicles travelling through an intersection, regardless of the light sequence.

Since the first five automated speed-enforcement cameras were activated last July, the ministry says more than 20,000 tickets have been issued, including one to a driver clocked at 174 km/h in an 80 km/h zone.

The cameras are primarily located around the Lower Mainland, but there are two in Kelowna and one in Prince George.

The Kelowna cameras are located on Highway 97 at Cooper Road and Banks Road intersections. The province maintains three other red-light only cameras in the area.

Because the cameras capture more than one potential motor vehicle infraction, the ministry statement warns drivers they could receive two fines linked to a single photo.

"Before mailing tickets, which carry fines but no penalty points, ... officers review the digital images and data to confirm the applicable Motor Vehicle Act charge or charges, " the statement says.

Prominent warning signs are in place leading up to all the intersections where the cameras are located, says the ministry.

with files from the Canadian Press

Kelowna singer-songwriters ask frontline workers to send selfies

The faces of our heroes

Kelowna husband and wife singing duo Kim and Jim Rhindress are asking those working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis to send in a selfie for their latest music video.

The couple has just written the song Health Care Heroes, dedicated to health care workers, first responders or hospital support staff.

"We wanted to contribute in the only way that we could really think, which is to honour these people," says Kim. "We really kind of take them from granted most of the time, unless we have ourselves personally or someone we love is in hospital." 

They're hoping to receive 300 selfies from health care workers in the next couple of days, which will be used by Okanagan filmmaker CJ Clayton in the tribute video he's creating this week free of charge. 

"I’s a big ask to get 300 photos," says Kim. 

"It doesn’t sound like a big number compared to all the workers out there, but to get people to even know about it, and then to stop what they’re doing and take a photo ... it seems like such a trivial thing, but putting faces to this is so important because these aren’t statistics, these are human beings. We’re getting photos in from Berlin, from Nunavut, from South America - this isn’t just a Kelowna thing, we’re getting pictures from everywhere."

They also posted on Facebook asking for photos of hearts in windows, visual displays of the words "thank you" and any other visual shows of gratitude or support.  

The Rhindresses had a few inspirations behind the project, but the biggest was a personal connection to the cause.

Their oldest son based in Victoria experienced COVID-19 himself recently, and the couple also know many people working in the industry, including doctors, nurses and support staff. 

"I’m friends with a lot of people who are really on the frontlines, like people don’t know what’s really going on," says Jim, who worked as a surgical nurse at KGH for 17 years. 

"It’s heavy there. They’re working harder than ever."

A rough cut of the song was posted to YouTube on Sunday and the final version will be recorded in studio on Thursday. 

If you're a healthcare worker who would like to participate in the project, email your selfie to Kim at [email protected]

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