Residents of the South Cariboo may have noticed the new and improved benches at the 100 Mile District General Hospital, but are perhaps unaware of the significance of their installation in the community.
The benches were installed by the South Cariboo Health Foundation (SCHF) through a memorial bench replacement project that also served as a fundraiser for the organization, which regularly donates to Fischer Place, Mill Site Lodge, and the district hospital itself.
Brenda Devine, public relations and fundraising coordinator for the SCHF, said that all the benches have now been sold.
“We replaced 22 benches on the hospital grounds,” explained Chris Nickless, chair of the board of directors for the SCHF. “The wooden benches were splintering, so they had to go.”
Devine explained that the idea to replace the benches was actually brought up by the maintenance staff at the hospital. In particular, the project was developed through a suggestion from William Holyk, plant services supervisor for the hospital.
“He asked if it was a possibility to use the replacement of the benches as a fundraiser for us. We were approached [because] the maintenance staff here could see that the benches were on their last legs.”
Devine took the idea to the SCHF board to see if the project was feasible and could be approved. It was.
“We were able to get some help so that we could actually make a little bit of profit from the sale,” Devine added.
Steve Brown, who owns the Interlakes Rona, delivered all the benches from the Lower Mainland as a donation, at no charge to the SCHF.
“He was all in,” recalls Devine. “[Brown] said ‘Don’t worry. When I get down there [to Langley] and pick up my products, I would be happy to bring those down for you.’”
The bench replacement project has been ongoing for about two years, and Nickless explained that the reinstallation happened in stages.
“We brought ten in first and then we brought the other twelve in.”
Maintenance staff removed the existing benches and replaced them with the new and improved ones, but the previous benches were not safe for public use any longer, and as such, could not be passed on to another community group, for liability’s sake.
Devine said that the SCHF put ads in the paper for a couple of years and “picked away” at the project.
The bench replacement project wasn’t just about safety, though. The reinstallation will benefit the community, certainly, but there is also a more emotional significance attached to the project.
“This is not only for memorial [purposes] but for recognition of groups, you know, for the firefighters or anything you want to do actually,” said Devine.
The benches include a memorial plaque, which means that any group, family, or individual who purchases a bench, simultaneously creates a commemorative placeholder for themselves within 100 Mile House.
“This not only helps the patients that are in here for a while that get a chance to go outside, and the residents in Fischer Place and Mill Site Lodge. Them as well as their families, they can be taken outside and those [the benches] can be utilized during outdoor activities, [too].”
“The fact that we have helped this situation, it’s really been quite successful,” said Devine. “It took a while, but we got there.”