Tofino Hospital Foundation chair Arlene McGinnis and her son Billy enjoy a donut named in their family’s honour at Rhino Coffee House. (Photo courtesy of Rhino)

Tofino restaurateur pays landlord’s generosity forward to Hospital Foundation

Coronavirus pandemic cancels foundation’s largest annual fundraiser

When Tofino restaurateur Duane Bell received a break on his rent in April, the desire to pay that generosity forward was immediate, as was where to send it.

“The first organization that came to my mind was the Tofino General Hospital Foundation,” Bell told the Westerly News. “I’m a big advocate of what they do and of the energy that Arlene McGinnis throws into this community.”

Bell is the owner of Rhino Coffee House in Tofino and had opened his business for take-out service in April when he heard from his landlord Bruce McDiarmid that no rent would be due that month.

“I thought I should pay it forward,” Bell said. “With having the business open for take out, I felt like I could afford to contribute a little bit.”

The Hospital Foundation took a huge financial hit when its annual April spring gala was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event traditionally brings in over $100,000 for the foundation’s efforts to purchase modern equipment for the West Coast’s only hospital in Tofino.

“It was a huge loss to us,” Foundation chair Arlene McGinnis told the Westerly. “At the moment, we are just biding our time. It’s one of those things where I find it very hard to ask people to donate at this time because I don’t know what their situation is and not everybody can afford to donate.”

READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet raise over $185K for hospital

She added refunds are available to anyone who purchased a ticket to the gala, though many have declined that refund or have asked to remain on the list for the next event, currently scheduled for 2021.

“We will gladly refund it to them, that is not a problem. I don’t want people feeling bad if they can’t leave the money in there,” she said. “We really do appreciate people understanding the situation and supporting us. It’s a very good feeling and it’s also very nice to have people who do not feel they can afford to leave the money in there, ask to remain on the list because they want to come next year to support us…We’ve already actually sold out for next year because most people have asked to stay on the list.”

She said she was delighted by Bell’s donation, but added she does not want residents to feel pressured to donate if they cannot afford to.

“I was just very overwhelmed and impressed. It was wonderful,” she said. “His ability to pass it forward doesn’t mean that someone else can do that. Not everybody is in the same boat. This is my concern for people out there that do support the Hospital Foundation, but are in a situation that they just can’t pass it forward at this time.”

The society raises funds to purchase new equipment for the hospital, last year’s big-ticket item was a brand new portable ultrasound machine, and anyone able to donate is encouraged to do so at PO Box 190 in Tofino.

“We are very thankful for the quality of care that we are getting from our doctors and nurses here. They are very dedicated and very compassionate,” McGinnis said. “We need that hospital and, frankly, we need a new and improved hospital…Thank you to everybody that is supporting the Hospital Foundation in any way that they can and that comes from all of us at the foundation.”

READ MORE: Christmas comes early for Tofino hospital as foundation gifts new ultrasound

Bell said he hopes other community members catch hold of the paying it forward mentality and that residents do what they can to help strengthen their community through donations, time, or simply kindness.

“Whether their generosity is towards their staff, their tenants, their customers, the people down the street or foundations, we should all be thinking about others right now,” he said.

“I think those that can afford it should do it, especially at these times. It also adds to the community, whether it’s money or whether you’re taking your time to help out…Being kind and thinking of others is the main thing to do right now and that will just make it a lot better and easier for everybody in the long run.”

READ MORE: Tofino pushing for new hospital

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