Jean Saul, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #69, is the first to be featured in the project. (Matthew Abrey)

‘Humans of Peachland’ photo project highlights local businesses

The Peachland Chamber of Commerce’s summer students are spearheading the project

A project highlighting Peachland businesses has launched and has garnered many positive comments so far.

“Humans of Peachland” is based off the popular photoblog “Humans of New York”, where portraits of and interviews with New Yorkers are posted.

According to the Peachland Chamber of Commerce president Larry Guilbault, the project was the idea of the chamber’s summer students. One of the students, Matthew Abrey, said they want to highlight local businesses and show the region what they have to offer.

“The whole point of the initiative is to put a face to some of the small businesses. People know they can Google what they sell, how they sell it, and what hours they’re open but more than anything, we want to give a personality to the businesses,” he said.

“We want people to see that the person who owns this business or restaurant is a real person with a real story, and this is how they came to this position in their life… this just gives them a voice. People take small local businesses for granted sometimes and we want to change that.”

View this post on Instagram

HUMANS OF PEACHLAND – CHAPTER 1 • • Jean Saul – President, Royal Canadian Legion Branch #69, Peachland • • "Boy, if these walls could talk. Unfortunately, I don't believe we have any of our local World War II veterans left. Maybe there are a couple Korean War veterans, but most of our current veterans are former peacekeepers. All of my mentors from years past are now all gone. All the members that taught me everything I know – Gone. And that's really tough. But it has taught me to appreciate these ones who are left even more. On Friday, our bartender picked up the phone, and a World War II veteran who lives in Kelowna was on the other end. He asked, 'Is Jean in the legion?' and he and his wife drove down just to have a drink with me. He has to be in his mid-90s, but he's still getting around pretty well. I feel so blessed that they would actually phone and see if I was here, and then go to the effort of driving down here. A lot of people still think of legions as an old boys' club. To those people, I say get yourself into the 21st century. Yes, back in the day, that's where the old guys would go and smoke and drink beer. But over the years, because so many members have passed on, legions looked around and said – 'okay, we need to change the way we do things'. Now, you only have to be Canadian and 19 years old. That's it. We are able to do that and have this conversation now, because of the sacrifices of others. We are free. We need to remember that. Whether or not you agreed with what happened in past wars, that doesn't matter. We're still free. And that is the most important thing. Last week, we partnered with the Peachland Wellness Centre and the food bank, and we held a bottle drive in the IGA parking lot. We sorted 41,998 bottles, made 26 trips to the depot thanks to 18 volunteers and raised over $4800 in eight hours. The Peachland Wellness Centre and food bank will both benefit from that, which is incredible. Our mandate is to support veterans and their families, but also our community, and that's what we aim to do. Peachland, we love you. Your legion has been supporting you since 1926. It’s time to support us.

A post shared by Peachland BC 🍑 (@peachlandbc) on

Abrey said, for now, they’ll be focusing on the district’s local businesses but he said they do want to expand the project to include Peachland residents and visitors in the future.

Despite the global pandemic and not having many tourists, he said many of the chamber’s member businesses are doing well and will weather COVID-19.

“Tourist season is of course very important to us but overall, we’re in a good spot at a chamber and as a district. But this (initiative) is just to make sure that people get exposure. Not from a marketing standpoint necessarily, but from a personal standpoint. These are all people who happen to own businesses and who have families that need to receive some income to survive,” he said.

“It would just be a real shame if any business in the Okanagan shut down because of COVID-19.”

Guilbault said the chamber is excited about the project and what the students are doing to help the district’s business community.

“There are so many colourful people in Peachland, and this is a good start. It’s a good idea during these times,” he said.

“There are so many people who have been here for many years and who have good stories. We also have many newcomers making an impact. We’re living in troubled times and people are tired of hearing the news about COVID-19. I think this will take people’s minds off those things and show them some good things are still happening out here.”

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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