Excitement and anticipation exploded in Williams Lake on Saturday when more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers converged on Cariboo Memorial Complex to help the Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA) stuff 4,000 gift bags to kick off the 40th annual B.C. Elders Gathering taking place in Williams Lake this week.
“I’m having a blast helping stuff bags and set up tables getting ready for the 40th annual B.C. Elders Gathering — I’m amazed and so proud,” said Cariboo Prince George MP Todd Doherty.
“When we showed up this morning there was such a huge crowd already; the community really rallied around this gathering and it makes you so proud to be from Williams Lake.”
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett was one of the volunteers who helped put the gift bags together.
“This is such a great event,” she said.
“It’s so good to see all the people here and the camaraderie is just wonderful.”
The original plan was for the bag stuffing to take eight hours, but it was finished in just over three.
Downtown Business Association chair Angie Delainey said that the gift bags are a great way to welcome B.C. First Nations Elders into the downtown core to meet the 73 local merchants who are offering a 10 per cent discount this week.
“This is such a great opportunity to celebrate the culture and traditions of our First Nations, as well as the rest of B.C.,” she added. “We are on traditional territory here and would love to attract First Nations business to our downtown core.”
The gift bags contained things like a site map for the Gathering, walking tour of murals and statues, 73 downtown businesses offering discounts to elders this week, Discovery Williams Lake, Elder Wellness from the Health Authority, as well as water bottles, notice of Signal Point bingo sessions, pens from the BIA, City of Williams Lake pins, sage packs, seat cushions for comfort and a program for the week.
“I feel really good about what’s in these bags,” said Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb.
“There’s a lot of information, not only maps for town but for the whole area,” he added.
“We want them to come back and visit anytime — that’s the whole idea.”
Cecil Grinder, chair of the B.C. Elders Gathering organizing committee, said he couldn’t believe how fast the bag stuffing went.
“We had lots of volunteers and good teamwork; it was so great to see our native and non-native people get together and enjoy it so much,” he said.
“I’m loving this: I’m really excited about the rest of the week.”