Even with a broken leg, Justin Eveline won’t stop helping those less fortunate than him.
After breaking his leg in November, Salmon Arm community members started a GoFundMe to help cover Eveline’s family’s expenses while he was off work. However, Eveline and his wife, Amy Bracken, didn’t feel like they needed the financial help, so they are using the donated funds to invest in the community.
The money will go towards buying ingredients and cooking a Christmas dinner to be handed out in takeout containers on Dec. 24 to those who are living rough in Salmon Arm.
Eveline has around 20 volunteers ready to help him feed about 60 less fortunate people, he estimates. They will set up tents and tables with heaters to keep food warm, along with chairs, hot chocolate, music and a fire pit so people can sit, talk and get to know each other.
“We want to do a little act of kindness, enough to give people a boost,” said Eveline. “Kindness catches on.”
As they thought about using the GoFundMe money, Eveline and Bracken also realized they had a lot of things in their house they weren’t using, including gift cards that had been given to them. They wanted these items to go to people who need and would use them, and so the Facebook group ‘Shuswap Pay It Forward’ was born.
The social media group sees its nearly 300 members post photos and descriptions of things they no longer use for others to comment on and pick up. Members can also share their businesses and events, and Eveline is working on setting up a Shuswap community GoFundMe to fundraise even more for the community.
Eveline has led other helpful community initiatives since moving to the Shuswap eight years ago. In 2017, he hosted a cookout at Canoe Beach and fed almost 600 evacuees displaced by wildfires. Eveline said he also hosted a garbage cleanup event in 2018, where he and around 50 volunteers picked up about 2.5 tons of garbage from all over Salmon Arm.
Eveline has been overwhelmed with the sense of community in Salmon Arm since moving here, and noted how different it feels than the Lower Mainland where he was raised.
“There’s not much sense of community there,” Eveline said. “You can get kind of a, ‘why are you talking to me’ vibe from your neighbours. Everyone here is so friendly and it’s exactly what I wanted my kids to grow up in.”