The heart of Lac La Hache is about to start beating again.
The Lac La Hache Old Age Pensioners Organization (OAPO) expects to start the gradual opening of its Cariboo Pioneer Centre in mid-June, after the B.C. government announced last week that it would begin to lift the restrictions imposed during COVID-19.
The Community Club next door is also set to host the South Cariboo Garlic Festival in September and get the bingo rolling again this fall.
The two facilities, along with the Lac La Hache Thrift Store, are the social hub of the community.
OAPO President Willy Giesbrecht said he can’t wait to throw open the doors to the hall, which offers “work and fellowship,” along with cribbage tournaments, dinners, dances and live music.
“When things get back to normal it is in use pretty much every day of the week,” Giesbrecht said. “It’s much better than sitting around waiting to do something. It was quite something to be tied down that way but it had to be done. It’s nice to see it relaxing a little bit.
“We’re going to take a cowboy’s chance and hope everything will be okay.”
Community Club director Jeanette McCrea agreed it will be great to finally reopen, noting the Community Club provides a lot of “freebies” to the community such as walking trails, the thrift store and the Rolf Zeis Memorial Arena. While the Community Club has been rented for First Aid courses, it has lost revenue by having to cancel the 2020 garlic festival and close the arena during hockey season.
READ MORE: Lac La Hache Thrift Store set to reopen
“It’s a relief,” McCrea said.
“I love Lac La Hache. It’s a good little place. The kids at the school can go to the arena at no charge, and it gives them a place for physical education. But all of that stuff wouldn’t be possible without paying the bills.”
The thrift store, which has remained open, has been the de facto gathering place - and a major source of income for the Community Club, collecting about $20,000 annually. This money is used to help cover the costs of club’s utilities.
Volunteer Judy Boehm said the thrift store has been especially busy, bringing in $6,000 in the first three weeks of reopening in April after the winter.
“We’ve been really busy because I think people need to get out and even if they don’t buy anything they just like to get out and visit and have a breather from the lockdown,” Boehm said, noting even tourists stop in.
“We have a lot of people come in and they come back just to talk to the girls. They kind of generally meet here and just have a great time looking through what we have.
“We have great stuff. People call it the Walmart of Lac La Hache. We’ve been known to say ‘if you see something and you like it you better buy it because next time you come back it may not be here.’”
Boehm noted if someone in the community is struggling they can also pick out what they need at the thrift store and “we won’t charge them for it.”
The store also donates to Coats for All campaign, provides materials for women making quilts for cancer.
“We don’t raise the prices either because it is donated to us. People like that,” she said. “I think they really enjoy coming and it’s very helpful for them because we’re not only serving our community, but the money we make goes back into the community. It’s a very friendly little town.”