McMillans honoured for generosity to hospital

Longtime residents recognized for significant support

South Cariboo Health Foundation chair Mary Shennum

South Cariboo Health Foundation chair Mary Shennum

A formal recognition luncheon was held to honour and recognize longtime residents Jim and Sheila McMillan for their very generous contributions to the South Cariboo Health Foundation (SCHF) over the years.

While most folks in the South Cariboo depend on the 100 Mile District General Hospital for health care when they need it, some don’t know who its benefactors were, or still are today.

The McMillan Family Trust has donated $162,500 from 2006 to 2014, significantly helping the SCHF toward its ongoing goal of supporting the local hospital and South Cariboo Health Centre.

SCHF spokesperson Brenda Devine says there was a “really nice turnout” of 19 people to the special event, including several local dignitaries who spoke about the honoured couple and their significant donations.

These included Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, and Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond.

Doctors Rod Dickey, Joanne Lapin and Bruce Nicolson were also there to help recognize the McMillans’ contributions to local health care. (Joanne is also an SCHF director.)

Sheila’s brother, Alan Boyd, his wife, Janet, former hospital administrator Bill Marshall, and the SCHF chair Mary Shennum and its other board members were also in attendance.

Alan also stepped up to make a brief speech about the McMillans.

Brenda notes the SCHF board is tremendously grateful to the McMillans, and was delighted to see that Jim and Sheila seemed “extremely pleased” to be recognized at the formal luncheon.

“We tried to do it respectfully, to really honour them, and it was a really lovely lunch [and] a very, very nice day.”

A donation recognition plaque was presented to the McMillans by SCHF director Ralph Fossum at the luncheon, and is to be displayed in the hospital.

“I was amazed,” says Jim. “We had a nice time.

“I made a comment [about] how I was born out at Horse Lake 87 years ago, at home. And, I lived in Lone Butte in later years.”

A good part of why they made these donations to the local health foundation was because he is a Shriner and a Mason, and they always support hospitals in a big way, he explains.

“I gave an equal amount to the Kamloops hospital, which is our regional hospital, eight years ago … and to the BC Children’s Hospital.”

Jim adds he and Sheila are both cancer survivors, so they know first-hand the importance of the quality of care given and received at hospitals.

This generous couple formed the trust along with their three daughters, and through their financial gifts have provided assistance to the SCHF in purchasing a variety of equipment, infrastructure upgrades, and donations to associated activities, such as hospice/palliative care programs.

Brenda explains the McMillan Family Trust donations are invested, with purchases spread out over several years, so the SCHF is able to allot funds to important hospital projects as they arise.

“Then, we tell them what we are putting that money towards.

“There are some good things ongoing … [such as] a chemotherapy consultation room that has been started.”

The plaque notes this generosity, and a bit about the family’s local history, including the very successful sawmill Jim and his brother, Glenn, owned and operated in Lone Butte under the business name of McMillan Contractors Ltd.

What began as a portable sawmill operation in 1950 turned into a stationary mill.

Jim notes it was located on leased land beside the railroad tracks on Watch Lake Road from 1963 to 1978, by which time it was running a two-shift operation cutting slightly more 16 million board feet a year.

From there, Jim attained a significant level of success and achieved worldwide industry acknowledgement for his log recovery methods. This came about through a study made and published by the federal government’s Forest Recovery Lab, he explains.

Jim says the renowned sawmill was eventually purchased by the Ainsworth forest company sight unseen – except from the air. He later wrote a book about his experiences, They came to Lone Butte, by James R. McMillan, which is still available at the 100 Mile House and Williams Lake libraries today.

The SCHF briefly noted Jim’s business acumen, which led to financial success allowing for his and Sheila’s generosity, on the plaque.

“Never ones to take their success for granted, the McMillans have made numerous donations to the local hospital over many years,” it states. “The McMillans typify the hard-working and inventive pioneers of B.C.’s forest industry.”