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Our Hometown: Leading his community

Massimo Calabrese, 19, is already very community minded
Massimo Calabrese, 19, was born and raised in Williams Lake and when he completes university hopes to return to live here. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

In recent months Massimo Calabrese, 19, has become better known in Williams Lake because of his efforts to bring more COVID-19 vaccination clinics to the city using Paradise Cinemas as the venue.

“One day I was sitting around and thought I think I’ll send an email to the city about trying to get more people vaccinated and see what happens,” he said. “I typed up something and sent it off, but didn’t really think anything would come out of it.”

It was not until he was contacted by the Tribune that he learned his letter made a city council meeting agenda.

“That sort of kick-started the whole thing. I waited a little while to see if the city would follow up.”

When he did not hear back he decided to see if he could do something himself.

Calabrese has worked part-time at the theatre since he was 16 and asked manager Munraj Hothi and owner David Hothi about the possibility of hosting vaccine clinics at the theatre, with some hours in the evening.

“I knew Munraj had done flu clinics at the restaurant he managed in Edmonton so that’s what made me figure he would agree to do it,” he said.

READ MORE: Drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics back on at Williams Lake movie theatre

He then approached Interior Health and they arranged for the first three clinics at the theatre. Calabrese credited Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson for helping him get a contact with IH.

When the large community vaccine clinic closed for good at Thompson Rivers University, Calabrese noticed more people were expressing interest in getting the vaccine but also frustration that it was difficult to get one because options were limited.

He emailed Interior Health again as the Hothis had already said they’d be willing to host as many as IH was willing to put on.

More clinics were scheduled and at the first one on Sept. 23, 100 people received the first dose, 56 people the second dose and more than 20 people were turned away.

Subsequent clinics are scheduled for every Thursday in October from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Calabrese has been criticized for organizing the clinics, but always responds kindly.

“I’m just trying to provide as good as an explanation I can give.”

He has spoken with three of the city councillors and Mayor Walt Cobb and just before the federal election reached out to candidates asking them to promote the vaccine, which four of them did in a joint press release.

Born Dec. 28, 2001, to Mauro Calabrese and Kendra Rogers-Calabrese, he is the oldest with three younger brothers Luca, Alessandra and Matteo.

As a child he attended 150 Mile House Elementary School.

In Grade 6 he started taking the school band program, playing the saxophone, and also joined the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddle Society, directed by Ingrid Johnston.

At Columneetza he joined the enviro club called the Greenologists in Grade 9.

While at Williams Lake Campus for Grade 10 to 12, he was in the jazz band and tour band and in Grade 12 a small group of students formed another band and met at lunch to practice.

“We picked some of our own fun songs and performed them during an open mic at the school,” he said.

He also taught fiddle lessons in Grade 11 and 12 and again when he was home from university because of the pandemic, doing school online this past year.

After being enrolled at the University of Northern B.C. for two years, he transferred to the University of Victoria this fall where he is pursuing a history degree.

For two summers he worked at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin and has been inspired to learn more about the history, particularly the Indigenous history, of the region.

After university he hopes to return to Williams Lake to live and continue doing research.

“We have a great museum and it is a nice place to work through,” he said.

In his spare time he enjoys playing music and keeping up with politics.

Recently he said he has been paying more attention to local politics.

School is his priority right now, but if he could work it out timing-wise with the next election, he said might run for city council.

“I think having young people involved with politics is always a good thing. It gives fresh ideas and different perspectives on things that I think everyone can benefit from.”

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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