This winter, I had the opportunity to spend some time at Brooks Creek Ranch. We were in search of a quick winter escape and time together as a family, and even though it was just a 20-minute drive from our front door and for only one night, it was a rejuvenating vacation. It was here that I met Joy Falk, as she was our morning chef.
Joy and her husband Stacy are co-owners of Brooks Creek. “We moved here six and a half years ago because we purchased this property,” she tells me. Interestingly, her family had been living in West Africa for two years prior as part of an international Christian school. Joy was teaching kindergarten and elementary art and Stacy doing construction and maintenance. The school was located in Niamey, Niger which is a developing country ranking near the bottom of the UN Human Development Index.
“Our girls were 10 and 12, and attended the same school. It was a life-changing experience for us all and broadened our eyes to the privilege we have as Canadians,” Joy says. “As we’ve watched COVID unravel, there’s a different perspective. We have space and soap and water that is clean for washing hands. Our lifestyles are so different. When we find ourselves grumbling and complaining, we are able to adjust our perspectives.”
This ability helped Joy to move into action as COVID began impacting our community, specifically as the team lead for the Elk Valley COVID Support Team (EVCST). “We were acutely aware of the needs that would arise as a result,” Joy tells me, adding that it was their business partner Kevin’s ‘brain child.’ The structure comes out of the Mountain Side Church. “There’s seven of us on the lead team, and then another five who are part of the bigger picture. Under that, Fernie has 100 volunteers and Sparwood and Elkford 80. There has been incredible response, with people looking to help and support our community in any way they can.”
Those involved realized they would have time, and redirected their energy into something that would provide life and support to others. “Kevin came up with a flowchart and layout of how the team would operate. We discussed the needs we felt we could meet, and how we could provide support but still keep people safe. We had a local doctor advise us, and we laid out the safety precautions.” They created a thorough document on how calls would be processed and filtered, the need matched with a volunteer, reported back as completed, and the file closed. “If that individual has another request, they can call in and the process starts again.”
Overall, everybody has been understanding and grateful to have this service available in the valley. “On the one hand we’re thrilled that we have so many volunteers. Fernie has had just over 60 requests that we’ve been able to meet. It would be great if it was higher so we could use all of the volunteers, but we’re also happy because it means that things are going well,” Joy shares.
Their main method of communications has been through Facebook, “but we have also approached the grocery stores so they are aware and can share when needed.” They now have sandwich boards and are working at getting them set up. “From there, it’s been word of mouth. We’ve had “keep in touch” letters to the Tom Uphill, Trinity, Rocky Mountain Village… but we might not be able to deliver groceries there, we are just waiting to hear back . We have to be on the safe side, as we don't want to compromise anybody and want to work together as a community - how can we help to meet these needs?”
When I ask Joy if she has had previous experience in anything similar, it’s a quick shake of the head. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this especially in this capacity. I’m a doer, I like to meet needs and to help. To be on something of this size, community run is a first. It’s been so incredible to see the response on both sides, and it has been such a positive experience all around. Definitely the situation is not great, but working with people so willing to help others is a huge blessing.”
So what are the plans for the EVCST? “Right now, we’re really adapting as things evolve. We have weekly meetings to discuss the challenges, the needs arising, concerns and new ideas. There is no definitive end, but as long as we’re needed, we’ll be there.”
If you or someone you know is in need of support at this time, from looking for someone to talk to to needing groceries or a prescription picked-up, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Elk Valley COVID Support Team. They are here to help as best they can. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/EVCST2020, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call at 250-423-4112.
1. When did you first arrive in the Valley and what brought you here? So we arrived July 2014, and it was our first time ever being to Fernie! We had purchased the land for Brooks Creek ranch, and had rented a house in the Airport!
2. Who did you first meet? Well, I guess the first people we met were our landlords in the Airport and from there we got involved with the Mountainside Community right away, and Kim and Tom Hopkins as they live just down the street. Kim and I still run together.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie? We lived in Invermere before so we were familiar with a small resort community. When we moved from Calgary to Invermere, I remember thinking it was very active and outdoors. When we moved to Fernie, we thought Fernie was Invermere on steroids. It’s next level. We love the youth, the vibrance, the active lifestyle. It encouraged us to be more active and to pursue a healthy lifestyle. And we just love the mountains. It’s physically a beautiful place with a vibrant community… there’s life here.
4. What keeps you here? We do love Fernie, absolutely but also the passion for our job for sure, to help provide holistic rest and renewal. My passion has always been to care for those around me. I love cooking for people, seeing them relax, get the renewal they need to be their best possible self. That’s my passion in Brooks Creek Ranch. Come and feel loved, important, a priority and not worrying about the needs being met. People can relax and enjoy this beautiful environment we live in.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie pastime? I love the small town life. The things coming to mind… Art after Dark, we did that last year and we absolutely loved that. Or, a few winters ago the Lantern Festival… just so many amazing family-oriented fun events Fernie does that we love to participate in. Those are the things that stand out, as they’re the things we would likely not do living in the city.
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why? Oh, summer is my forever favourite season as I love heat. But every season has something about it. Fall - I didn’t realize the beauty of fall colours. Fernie is spectacular! Going out for a run, the crunch of the leaves, still feel the warmth of the sun. Spring - crisp snow on the mountains, the blue skies, the mountains just pop. Winter is not my favourite, it has its place. I have found my winter activities - snowshoeing, skate skiing, running. It makes it beautiful and enjoyable.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years? I hope to see Fernie back to life really. Being the vibrant community that it was.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? I start my day by getting up and dealing with the dogs. Once they’re settled, I take a 30-40 minutes of pause and quiet. After that, doing 30-45 minutes of exercise. And then, breakfast with my family. That’s life right now, when I’m working it looks a little bit different.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.People seem to be surprised when they find out I have a daughter that's 20! But something that most people don't know is that I had the opportunity to run with the Olympic torch in Calgary 1988.
10. Quote to live by: Well as a family we joke that my motto in life is work first, play later (of which there never seems to be enough time leftover for play). But on a more serious note, I believe that each day is a gift from God and there is always something to be thankful for.