When we first moved to the Cowichan Valley some 8 years ago, we were driving a little Jetta that ran on bio-diesel. It wasn’t long before we had bought a diesel van that had been converted to run on veggie oil (to meet the needs of our expanding family) and had joined the Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-op (the Co-op or CB-DC) to support locally produced, sustainable biofuels. Living, as many of us do here in the Valley, on a rural property, means long drives to get to Duncan, school, and services, and running our vehicle on alternative fuel helps ease the guilty conscience that comes with lots of driving. To date, the Co-op together with its supporting partner the Cowichan Energy Alternatives Society (CEA) has prevented over 800 tonnes of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere by supplying the community with its recycled cooking oil biofuels.
At the best of times it’s not easy running a social enterprise focused on sustainable solutions, not profit. Then last summer I heard that the offices of the Co-op and CEA were broken into. Not just once, but five times, despite repeated requests from the tenants to make the building more secure. The CB-DC offices suffered the loss of thousands of dollars in stolen property and damages. “Our insurance had a $1000 deductible for each break-in and did not insure personal property so in the end we were not reimbursed for anything- it was a complete loss” says Brian Roberts, Co-op President.
In November, CEA was denied the essential Gaming Grant funding on which it relies for delivering their programs, leaving them without core funding. Nearly six months after sending a request to review the decision, CEA has still not received an answer from the Province. Then at the start of the new year the Co-op’s biofuel pump broke down which forced closure and expensive equipment repairs of the Co-op’s biofuels pump located. This left the Co-op without the much-needed biofuel distribution pump at Cowichan Petroleum Services, and the loss of its main source of revenue for several months.
After hearing about these difficulties I began brainstorming about organizing a fundraiser to help out the struggling organization. When I shared my ideas with Brian from the Co-op, he requested that we also extend the fundraiser to include a family in need.
With the unexpected and tragic death of Miles Phillips, the timing of a fundraiser could not be more appropriate. Philips, who was the financial manager of CEA and CB-DC, has left behind a wife and two daughters now coping with grief and in serious financial difficulties. The Co-op is already supporting a campaign to raise money for the family. You can donate on-line at: http://www.smellbetter.org/1/post/2014/03/fundraising-for-miles-phillips-family.html
In the spirit of giving, there will be a community dance event taking place May 31st at the HUB in Cowichan Station, 5pm-11pm. There will live music from Bijou de Bayou, Paradigm Shifters, the Twisted Vine String Band and more, a silent auction, food, beverages and kids activities. Proceeds will be split between the family of Miles Phillips, and the Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-op. We are suggesting a donation of $25 at the door, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds or for donating more!
It’s not every community that is blessed with its own locally produced, sustainable biofuel service as we are here in Cowichan. Let’s keep our Co-op going, and providing the essential service it does, and help out a struggling family at the same time.
Come demonstrate your support and the resilience of our Cowichan community! See you there!
Photo from right to left: Jason Adair, Mgr CVRD; Lorne Duncan, CVRD Area E
Director; Brian Roberts; Miles Phillips; Daniella Parks, Vancity; Mark Fulmer, Vancity; Daryl
Giesbrecht, CB-DC; Autumn, Miles’ youngest daughter (holding green ribbon).