Gail Andersen captures the moment during Cowichan Family Life’s 23rd Annual Cowichan Valley Garden Tour. This year’s tour had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)

Cancelled fundraisers hurt Cowichan Family Life

Two big events postponed due to COVID-19

Cowichan Family Life has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic on two fronts.

Not only did the association have to cancel its two biggest fundraisers of the year, but it has also seen increased demand for its counselling services because of quarantining, social distancing and lost work.

“This is definitely a rough time for everyone,” said Tina Short, who coordinates the annual Garden Tour, one of Cowichan Family Life’s major fundraisers and a highly anticipated event in the gardening community every year. “People more than ever are needing somewhere to turn to to help with worries, anxiety and general counselling.”

Cowichan Family Life had to close its office as well, but offered telephone counselling. The office has since reopened, but telephone counselling is continuing for some clients.

Cowichan Family Life has been offering affordable counselling in the Valley since 1970, and this year’s fundraisers were scheduled to be big ones to mark the 50th anniversary.

The first event cancelled this year was the annual fundraiser at the Cobblestone Pub, featuring a band, silent auction and a raffle, with all admission and proceeds going to Cowichan Family Life.

The Garden Tour had been held traditionally on the first Sunday in June. Last year, organizers moved it to Mother’s Day, but found themselves in direct competition with a similar event run by the Victoria Conservatory of Music, so they planned it for the weekend of May 24 this year. Coronavirus had other plans, however.

“There are a lot of disappointed gardeners out there,” Short commented.

In 2019, about $15,000 was raised from the Garden Tour, and another $5,000 from the event at the Cobblestone, a big chunk of change for a group that receives no funding from the government and relies almost exclusively on donations.

Someone has volunteered to create a virtual tour of six gardens that Short hopes to get onto the Cowichan Family Life website soon. But she knows that’s not the same as the real thing.

“You can’t smell the flowers,” she lamented.

For information on donating to Cowichan Family Life, visit cowichanfamilylife.org

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