A Ucluelet resident’s infectious passion for helping others is rapidly propagating through town.
Debbie Vance arrived in Ucluelet from Richmond last year eager to immerse herself in her new community and immediately looked for a local Rotary Club to join.
Vance had been a Rotarian in Richmond for the past seven years and found it to be an excellent way to have fun and make a difference while meeting new people.
“I was looking for something that I could do by myself, but didn’t mean I would be by myself, and that was Rotary. I went to a meeting and was hooked the first day,” she said. “Getting involved and making a difference in the world really has a huge appeal to me.”
After learning Ucluelet did not have a local Rotary Club, she quickly got to work on launching one herself, officially chartering the Rotary Club of Ucluelet on Jan. 11, 2019, and was thrilled to see Ucluetians jump on board as the club’s membership rapidly ballooned to over 50 members.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “Everybody wanted to know why I was so passionate about Rotary, what it was and what it could do for our community here. So, we had meetings and social events and the more people started to understand what it meant to be a Rotarian, the more people want to join on board.”
The club’s contributions to town have been coming fast and furious since its inception, with Rotarians leading a winter coat drive with the Food Bank on the Edge Society, donating an air hockey table to Ucluelet’s youth room, volunteering for Black Rock Resort’s annual Easter Egg Hunt, hosting a textile swap and participating in numerous local efforts like Surfrider and Pacific Rim Whale Festival fundraisers as well as Ucluelet’s recent efforts to rid the town of invasive Scotch Broom.
Vance said the group’s efforts are currently focused on an International Vision Enhancement project, which involves collecting old eyewear to be donated to people in need around the world.
Local Rotarians are also collecting partially-used hygiene products, like liquid soap and shampoo, to recycle and redistribute through the Food Bank on the Edge and hopes to partner with the District of Ucluelet to beautify the local cemetery.
“It’s a real sense of accomplishment when you get to see projects done for the community on behalf of the community,” said Julie Beeley who joined the club at its inception in January.
Nancy Barlett moved to Ucluelet from Ontario and was ecstatic to immediately dive into helping out through Rotary.
“It was an opportunity for me to meet other like-minded people who care about their community and want to make a difference,” she said. “Ucluelet to us is a very family oriented, small community. It’s very warm and very inviting and this is a chance to give back and allow it to get better as it’s growing.
Darren Lopez also recently arrived in Ucluelet by way of Tofino and was looking for ways to infuse himself into the community.
“I love getting together with my community and brainstorming how we can make it better,” he said.
“It’s a chance to give back and help out in the community wherever it’s needed,” said fellow Rotarian Dave Schofield. “I’ve always found that doing that makes me happy…I get a great joy from helping people and seeing the difference it’s made.”
Roy Wilim noted the club offers an important and easy path towards community engagement, especially during the busy summer months when free time is at a premium.
“Come and meet everybody and see if there’s a project you can do,” he said.
Vance added that the club’s meetings are child and pet friendly and she encourages anyone interested in getting involved to check out the club’s ‘Rotary Club of Ucluelet’ Facebook page.
“We’re a bunch of like-minded people who just want to do good in the world together. We really make a difference and we have fun doing it,” she said.