Have you ever heard someone say, “if you want something done, ask the busiest person you know?” I have, and one of my people is Courtney Baker.
I was once sitting in the Chamber board room with a group of people, trying to figure out how to get more people downtown during the summer months (yes, this used to be a struggle!). The focus was on shutting down main street to traffic to develop Sunday Socials, which would encourage pedestrian traffic. While this was great, I mentioned being interested in a mid-week evening concert series… and let me tell you, Courtney was the first person to get behind it. Quickly, we developed a team (with Vanessa from the Fix and Dawn from the Mountain Market) and the Wednesday Socials were born.
Through the experience of running these socials, I learned something new about Courtney, whom I have known most of my life. She is dedicated to our community.
Courtney was actually born in Seattle, moving to Spokane before settling in Fernie in 1985. “My mom met a Fernie local and we moved here,” she shares with me. “I went to school for a whole week in Jaffray before attending Ridgemont Elementary School.” The conversation takes a little detour, chatting about what it was like back then. “It was super easy to grow up here,” she says, and I agree. “It really was the childhood of when the street lights came on you had to get home, and our parents never knew where we were.” Memories of the sprint home to avoid persecution make us laugh.
Then, we discuss how we both moved back to Fernie as it was not anticipated.
“I never thought I would end up back here, not that I gave it much thought,” she says. After graduating from high school, Courtney travelled and then attended the University of Victoria. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I took Sociology and Political Science with a minor in English Literature and came back here for a ‘stop over.’ I started working and doing random jobs and when the assistant job at the Arts Station came up, I started there.” And she never left.
This was Courtney’s first administrative community work, and it was something she really enjoyed. After a few years the current Executive Director retired, and Courtney applied for and was awarded the position. She continued there, until 2016 when she took a position with the Fernie Senior Citizens Society as their Administrator. As this is not full time… (and Courtney gets things done) she also worked with Wildsight for a few years and works with the Fernie Pride Society.
In addition to these positions and her involvement in the Wednesday Socials, Courtney has volunteered with many events and organizations including the Fernie Pets Society, the Role and Sole Festival, The Dumpster Project, Stag Leap Running Co., Fernie Live Music Society, as well as a committee member with the RMI Advisory Group and the Eirin Amundsen Memorial Pavillion.
Through all of her work with non-profit and community organizations, Courtney saw that many were in need of advisement, as well as grant writing, and decided to start her own consulting company, SWELL nonprofit support. Through SWELL, Courtney has been able to help people set up non-profits, source grant opportunities, write grants and also to help them to understand process, procedures and responsibilities as NPs.
What Courtney enjoys most about this work is the ability to contribute to the community in an ongoing way. “I’m doing a lot of different things and working across vaster swatches of the community vs. one aspect. It helps you to feel like you are making a difference,” she tells me.
“So much in Fernie is community-group led, and I’m a sucker for offering advice as am just happy to see things happening.”
Courtney recognizes that these organizations are the drivers of community. “It’s a pleasure to be a part of that driver. In a town like Fernie, so much of what we enjoy is put forth by community groups and primarily volunteer efforts,” and we agree it’s important for us all to understand and appreciate these efforts.
So, how does Courtney recommend you get involved?
“Just reach out! Approach someone outside of your comfort zone and your community groups, and you could bring new ideas and skills and could really help out more than you know. Volunteer burnout is a real thing. Even if you can donate an hour a month, it’s a massive amount of help.”
Thank you, Courtney. Your efforts are appreciated, and apologies if you get asked for even more support now that the community knows to ask the busy people!
1. When did you first arrive in Elk Valley and what brought you here?
October 1985, and my mother married a local.
2. Who did you first meet?
Crystal Cerny in Mrs. Corrigan’s grade 1 class.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of the Elk Valley?
It was quiet.
4. What keeps you here?
5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
Community! And probably reading, I read a lot.
6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
Probably winter. It changes. Now that Henry is old enough to be fun to ski with, it makes a difference.
7. Where do you see or hope to see the Elk Valley in five years.
Really embracing inclusion, appreciating the level of community support we do have and what gets contributed, and actively tackling issues like housing. Building up and not out! A three-story building is not the end of the world.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
At this point in time, with wordle, then quordle and heardle.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I have a vast and very highly useful knowledge of pop culture. I would be excellent on any sort of trivia team.
10. Quote to live by: Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the Universe. ~ Kurt Vonnegut