When Maxine DeHart was first approached by the Kelowna Capital News to write a business column, her reaction was a polite thanks, but no thanks.
It was 20-years ago and DeHart was a decade into her job at the Ramada Hotel. She was immersed in the community on several volunteer boards when publisher Paul Winkler and editor Andrew Hanon approached her with an idea for a business column in the Capital News.
“They wanted something different, they wanted someone in town that had a lot of connections and had personality,” said DeHart this week, looking back on 20 years of her column, Straight from DeHart. “I told them I write exactly the way I talk and that’s what they wanted.”
And from there, Straight From DeHart (the column name came from fellow Ramada employee Stan Martindale) was off and rolling every Wednesday. For the past 20 years, it has taken the temperature of the business community, profiling new and unique businesses, people and places, and spotlighting those in the community who were doing good work.
“It’s hard to believe that 20 years has passed since Straight from DeHart first published in the Capital News,” said Karen Hill, now director of sales for Black Press Interior South. “There have been so many changes in our industry through the years but one constant in the Kelowna market has been Maxine’s column every Wednesday. From new business openings to 25 year anniversaries you can always count on Maxine to have the scoop on what is taking place in the Central Okanagan business community.”
And those scoops have a life of their own and result from word of mouth along with an amazing network of contacts that DeHart has built up through trust and with her connections in the community. Twenty years ago it all came together for DeHart. The start of the column also coincided with her move to become chair of the United Way. It gave her an idea for her annual Drive Thru Breakfast, something that has raised over $750,000 over the years with this October’s planned event the 20th anniversary.
Long-time managing editor Barry Gerding says DeHart’s column has become a steadfast part of the community and the Capital News.
“To say she put her heart and soul into her column in the years I worked with her would be an understatement,” he said. “There is no doubt the people she has written about for 20 years have been given a hand-up. Many have told her that being included in her column helped pass the make or break point for their new business to survive.”
The column itself long ago passed that make or break point. Maxine says she will keep writing it as long as people keep bringing her ideas and the space is available.
On behalf of the community, the Capital News would like to offer our congratulations to our columnist and friend, Maxine DeHart, on 20 years of speaking from the heart in these pages.
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