By Joanne McQuarrie

Thanks to the efforts of a huge number of volunteers and a dedicated executive,  the Invermere Health Care Auxiliary Society (IHCAS) provides financial support to organizations and individuals in the area each year.

Thousands of dollars were donated this year to a variety of recipients and what makes that even more impactful, said Seona Helmer, vice president and chairman of the funding committee, in an email, is the number of volunteers and the hours they work, “that generate this type of money on mostly $3 items!”

That’s because, Helmer later told the Pioneer, “Our major fundraiser is the Invermere Thrift Store.”

As well, she added, “We get occasional spontaneous cash donations from people who drop in at the store.”

The IHCAS has a history that dates back to 1910, Helmer noted. There’s a dedicated force of volunteers at the store; some have been working there for 35 years, and many others have been working there from five to 25 years.

Items at the store average $3 to $6 apiece, which makes for a great shopping spree. 

Unfortunately, Helmer said, “There’s an increasing amount of theft in the store. It’s discouraging, very stressful to deal with it, and disheartening for the volunteers to deal with it.”

In 2022 the IHCAS donated a total of $ 243,173.61 to the community and health region. For example, Helmer said, “We were able to provide 18 new multi mission gear suits to the Invermere Fire Department; resources for the Youth Centre for LGBTQ+ youth; equipment for search and rescue; scholarships, equipment for hospitals, to name a few items.”

IHCAS hands out scholarships twice a year. “In the spring, we give scholarships to students at DTSS who are pursuing studies in health-related fields. In 2022, we gave out eight scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each.

“In the fall, we give out a scholarship for students who are in their second or more year of study in a health-related field. This year, we gave out four scholarships in the amount of $2,500 each, for a total of $10,000.”

In the area of community funding, specifically projects that enhance the health of the community, $67,454.60 was donated. Recipients include Invermere Fire Rescue; the Windermere Valley Youth Centre; Columbia Valley Search and Rescue; Special Olympics Invermere Branch; the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley; Cycling Without Age. 

Helmer pointed out a ‘wish list’, “items that fill an identified need not covered by capital spending in our health region facilities”. The tally in that area is $106,013.00 in donations to the Invermere and District Hospital; Golden and District Hospital; East Kootenay Regional Hospital ( East Kootenay Foundation for Health);  Foundry House East Kootenay ( East Kootenay Foundation For Health) and; Canal Flats Adult Day Service Home Support Clinic.

“This money is raised through items donated by our extended community, through the efforts of 153 volunteers and an amazing 17,071.2 donated hours in 2022 so far,” Helmer said. “You can see the herculean effort that goes in to running our little store.”

Helmer is grateful for the support from folks in the area. “People donate, and the whole community supports it,” she said.