Couple married 73 years now visiting only through glass window

Couple visits through glass

Richard and Kathleen Norris of Summerland have been married for 73 years, used to spending all of their time together. But these days, their interactions are through the glass of a closed window, to avoid potentially spreading the COVID-19 virus to each other.

Their granddaughter Megan Thomas is sharing the couple's story in an effort to show that if her 94-year-old grandpa can make the effort to follow social distancing, you can too.

Thomas said her grandma has been a resident at the Dr. Andrew Pavillion centre for a year and a half. 

"My grandpa has been visiting, he stays usually two or three hours a day," she said. The family was worried when COVID-19 restricted visitors, but Richard didn't miss a beat, sitting with his bride outside her room's large window. 

"Every lunch he brings his own food and they sit and eat together and he brings a little dry-erase board so they can communicate," Thomas explained. "To be able to have that communication and that connection is something I think we're all looking for right now."

She hopes their story will remind people we are all in this together, and drive home the importance of physical distancing. 

"My grandpa is such a special man, he lived through the great depression, he fought in the war. He's so resilient, and he's positive, and he knows the value of respecting orders that keep us all safe," Thomas said.

"I think for me what's frustrating is people not taking social distancing as seriously as they should."

In addition to her visits from Richard, Kathleen has multiple children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in town visiting through the window. The kids plan to sing songs to her, and have been leaving decorations in the bushes so she can see.

"You get inundated with all these scary unknown things but certain things remain, and I think love is one of those things," Thomas said, adding: "And call your parents!"


Penticton youth getting creative in time of crisis

Kids helping out in crisis

Dale Cory

Penticton’s youth are doing their part to make the world a better place.

As the planet struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, local initiatives have all of us feeling better about the future, and giving us reason to smile.

The heart hunt was organized by Total Restoration, and asked people to put hearts in their windows, encouraging people to drive around and view the creativity. Cherilynn Bull and her young children decided to participate. 

“We’re doing it for the community so that everyone who is in self-isolation can drive around and look for the hearts and do something fun,” said Cherilynn.

“We all painted this, but my mommy drew the lines for me,” offered up four-year-old Heidi, pointing to the hearts on their window.

“This one says ‘Stay Strong’, and this one says ‘Stay Home’,” added Cherilynn. “We want everyone to stay home so this COVID goes away.”

While Heidi is excited about painting hearts, another Penticton youth has formed her own business, and providing random acts of kindness for residents.

Lola Latchford has been making bracelets, then hiding them around Penticton for people to find.

Accompanying the bracelet is the following note.

“My name is Lola. I’m 10 years old. I started my business a year ago. I just want to make people happy. If you find one of my bracelets it means, pass on the kindness.”

And now, Lola is getting return notes from the new owners of one of her personally crafted bracelets.

“This made my day, and that this made them happy,” said the Gr. 5 student at Uplands Elementary, reading from a note a bracelet recipient wrote online.

“Because of what’s happening around the world right now, I just want people to know we’re all in this together,” Lola explained.

All this makes for one proud mother.

“I think what she is doing is wonderful,” said Lindsey Schoenne. “It gives her the confidence she needs as she is a really shy kid. A little girl making a big impact, and it sure makes me a proud mom.” 

In the meantime, make sure you take a close look behind park benches and trees — you just may find one of Lola's bracelets!

District of Summerland adding solar panels at Municipal Hall

Increasing solar power

The District of Summerland has taken another step toward bringing solar energy to the community with the installation of a 5.4kW solar photovoltaic array on Municipal Hall. 

The 17-panel system will provide over 6,900 kWh of power to the district annually, or about five percent of the building’s current electrical energy use. 

The conversion of all indoor and exterior lighting to LEDs means the panels will cover an even higher percentage of the building’s energy needs in the future. 

“The Municipal Hall solar array is one more way Summerland is benefiting from renewable energy. This installation will not only provide cost savings to our community, but it is a highly visible reminder that we are committed to demonstrating leadership on clean technology and innovation” said mayor Toni Boot. “We truly appreciate the opportunity to partner with the North Growth Foundation on this and the Arts & Cultural Centre array, which has already exceeded our estimates for annual power production.” 

This latest installation joins a larger 50-panel array completed on the Arts & Cultural Centre in 2018. Both installations were funded by a $25,000 grant from the North Family Foundation’s “Solar Now” project and a $30,000 allocation from the District’s unallocated surplus fund. 

“The leadership of the District of Summerland exemplified by the installations of renewable solar energy on public buildings is inspiring,” said Bill Swan, Solar Now project manager. “Demonstrating that renewable solar energy is not only viable but achievable for citizens and whole communities is precisely why Solar Now was established to work with future thinking communities and organizations. With each installation, Solar Now aims to demonstrate how communities can produce their own power while helping fight climate change by generating clean, renewable electricity from the sun.” 

Residents can get updates on all of Summerland’s solar energy projects by clicking here


Penticton apartment feuds over excessive cleaning practices

COVID-19 cleaning feud

The COVID-19 crisis has everyone concerned with social distancing, and many obsessed with cleaning.

That obsession has played out on a small scale at an apartment building in Penticton.

“I shouldn’t be getting a call from my landlord saying, ‘hold back on the cleaning,'" is what Chad Stevenson, who lives at 774 Winnipeg Street, is all riled up about. 

He called Castanet recently after receiving two phone calls, which he claims were verbal warnings from Associated Property Group telling him to stop cleaning the hallways, doorways and other shared spaces of the building or face consequences including potentially being evicted.

“Shame on Associated Property Management, shame on whoever in the building called in and complained that I help clean,” said Stevenson.

But the property group other tenants disagree with his characterization, saying he has been using undiluted bleach. 

“No warnings were given to him. Warnings need to be written. And there’s no reason to evict him. I did thank him for cleaning. All I said was, 'please don’t use straight bleach',” said Denise Russo, a licensed property manager with Associated Property Group who manages the building.

“We have a caretaker sanitizing the entire building. I’ve got emails from tenants saying they cannot breathe, and please do something about it.”

Kelly Allies is one of those unhappy tenants.

“Nobody here appreciates his help. I went out of my apartment and you could not imagine the smell of bleach,” said Allies. ”I appreciate he says he was trying to do his part. But we have a caretaker who goes through the building with his anti-bacterial cleanser that doesn’t offend anybody.”

Stevenson has been living in his apartment for about five years. New owners took over two years ago. According to him, they’ve been trying to evict him since then, for what he says is over-cleaning.

Stevenson says he has routinely cleaned his door handle, the hall railings and hallway.

“I do know there were some complaints put in because of the extremely strong bleach smell. There’s people in this building that have breathing problems,” said Ken, the on-site manager. “That’s not his job. He’s a tenant here. I do the cleaning in this building twice a day. I disinfect door knobs and handrails with my own products that I buy through the store.

Ken’s concern, along with those of other tenants, appears to be with the bleach being used.

“I certainly don’t use straight bleach. That’s burning the follicles in your lungs. You have to dilute it 10 to 1. Anybody will tell you that,” Ken said. “He’s going in there with straight bleach. It burns my face.”

Given the COVID-19 crisis, Stevenson feels his extra cleaning is warranted.

“During this pandemic I have stepped up my cleaning. Most of the people in the building will thank me,” he insisted. “I got called twice today — two complaints stating that I have been seen helping clean the door knobs and hand railings within one hour.”

The on-site manager says 774 Winnipeg St. is a clean, and sterilized building.

“We do appreciate his efforts in trying to help,” summarized Ken. “But, nobody has asked him to help, and I’m pretty sure I’m doing a sufficient enough job. I have not had any complaints from anybody.”

Man tricks senior by claiming to be health worker in Princeton

Fake IH worker tricks senior

A bizarre incident in Princeton has RCMP warning citizens to be vigilant and aware of people impersonating health workers. 

On March 27, police received a call from the daughter of a Princeton woman in her 80s who said her mother had been contacted by a man claiming to be from Interior Health and asking her to meet up for a test to "assess her driving."

The woman, who had had recent medical issues, agreed to meet, and the man who arrived at her residence was approximately six feet tall in a grey suit with brown hair, wearing surgical gloves and a mask and carrying hand sanitizer. 

"He took her for a drive and told her he needs her to prove she could find her way back on her own," said Sgt. Rob Hughes, adding the man asked her to prove she could parallel park as well. 

The senior said he had an Interior Health ID but does not remember the name he provided, and the phone number he called from was blocked. 

Her daughter alerted police after hearing the story and finding it odd. 

Hughes said police have not received any similar reports since the incident and said it appears to have been a strange isolated incident. Interior Health and the Princeton Health Centre have both denied they had a worker engaging in such activity. 

Hughes hopes the story will alert the community to potential scams. 

"If they have somebody calling from health services or a hospital or anything, a charity, if it’s a blocked number it should raise a flag,” he said, adding that if such a call comes in, press *57 which allows RCMP to track the call through Telus records later. 

He also said that sometimes, these cases have innocent explanations. 

"Maybe if the person that sees this, maybe he’ll call us and explain,” he said. “It’s happened before."

RDOS and rural director deny claims of lawsuit

RDOS, director deny claims

The allegations of harassment filed in a civil lawsuit against the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameeen and Okanagan Falls director Ron Obirek have been denied in a response filed this month. 

Gregory Rose filed a suit against Obirek and the RDOS in December claiming that while he was hired by the RDOS on an $83,000 contract to do a needs assessment on an office in OK Falls serving areas D and I, he was subject to harassment.

In a response filed March 10, Obirek and the RDOS do not dispute that Rose was hired to conduct such a review and would be paid $80 per hour and be required to work between 21 and 35 hours per week. 

But their response denies claims from Rose that Obirek "continuously and intentionally intervened with the plaintiff’s work,” and that Rose never received written notice his contract was terminated. 

The original lawsuit claims Rose specifically asked the RDOS to keep Obirek out of the Okanagan Falls office for the duration of his contract, March to December 2019, further alleging the RDOS was aware of a history of “ongoing harassment inflicted upon RDOS staff by” Obirek.

The suit seeks general damages for breach of contract, wrongful dismissal, loss of income, moving costs, loss of opportunity, psychological injury as well as punitive and special damages. 

The response claims that in May 2019, the RDOS board "met and resolved to terminate the contract. [Rose] was made aware of the resolution and provided with more than thirty days' notice of termination, to become effective on July 30, 2019."

It further claims Rose "was paid all amounts owing under the contract up to and including the termination date," and that "the engagement was subject to termination prior to December 31, 2019 on thirty days' written notice if, in its discretion, RDOS determined that: the plaintiff was unsuitable for the work; his performance was 'unsatisfactory'; or he was unwilling or unable to properly carry out the work."

None of the above allegations have been proved in court.

YMCA offers essential child care program in Penticton

Child care for key workers

The YMCA of Okanagan will be offering child care spaces for essential service workers at Queen's Park Elementary in Penticton. 

Priority will be given to children zero to 12 years of age whose parents or guardians are working in positions identified in the top three tiers of COVID-19 essential services, which includes those working as health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and more. 

“Our goal is to provide child care between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays to those who need it most during the COVID pandemic,” said Danielle Miranda, YMCA child care general manager.

“We are here to support the community of Penticton and essential services employees, providing caring and committed staff who are eager to work, along with safe spaces for children to learn, be active and thrive.”

The facility will be taking extra health and safety precautions, including reducing teacher-to-child ratios by half and restructuring activities and play areas to ensure proper social spacing is in place.

As well, parents and children are screened prior to drop off and adults and children in care are extra diligent in following proper hand washing and hygiene practices.

Parents or guardians can check their eligibility via a quick survey here. The YMCA says they will contact applicants as soon as possible following completion. 

For questions, reach the staff at 250-491-8678 or [email protected]

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