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Cowichan community activist Anne Balding has died

Balding was a founder of the Meals on the Ground program
Community activist Anne Balding has died. (Submitted photo)

One of the leading volunteers, and a force for social justice, in the Cowichan region has died.

Anne Balding died on July 6 after receiving compassionate care from two south Cowichan District Hospital staff members and friends in the weeks leading up to her death.

Her work with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Warmland Shelter, New Democratic Party and Meals on the Ground program that helps feed the disadvantaged, for which she and Claudia Roland were awarded the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s Black Tie Volunteer of the Year in 2018, speak of her dedication to her community.

Roland said that through her work as the first manager of Warmland House, Balding realized that there were a great number of people in the Cowichan area who didn’t have food security, and set about to alleviate that problem by helping to found the volunteer-run Meals on the Ground program.

“Anne has been our tireless leader at MOTG since the beginning, and there are now 13 teams of volunteers who provide the food, cook and serve it,” Roland said.

“Anne also always felt bad for people who couldn’t have a Christmas dinner, and started Boxing Day dinners at the United Church. Volunteers and community members provided the food, as well as cooked and served it. Anne’s focus was on people being fed. She was surprised and grateful to receive the Black Tie Award in 2018 for Volunteer of the Year. It was a fitting tribute to a dedicated volunteer.”

Rhoda Taylor, a social justice advocate and a volunteer with the MOTG program, said Balding was a fierce advocate for people living with mental illness, handicaps and poverty, and that she fought for them with intensity and unwavering commitment.

“Anne believed in social equity and equality, but held everyone to the same standards of honesty and integrity,” she said.

“Anne was always determined, decisive and committed to action. She made things happen and our community was strengthened by her. She will be deeply missed.”

Balding was a core member of the international organization called Gather the Women and Clare Peterson, another GTW member, said Balding was known for her “let’s just do it” attitude.

“While totally active in local community service, she also appreciated a larger world view that explored new ideas to solve old problems,” Peterson said.

“She was a reiki master and supported a holistic approach to health care. There were so many meaningful interests that Anne and I shared and I will dearly miss our deep conversations which were sometimes challenging and always lively. I am so grateful for all our fun and I already notice how much she will be missed.”

Balding was also a dedicated member of the NDP and Joanna Lord, president of the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford NDP constituency association, said she was a committed New Democrat through and through.

“She was always actively involved in NDP campaigns, both provincially and federally, in our region from as far back as I can remember and, prior to moving to Cowichan, in her hometown of Bancroft, Ontario,” Lord said.

“From roadside rallies to outreach and fundraising events, phoning and door knocking, Anne was always there leading the way during campaigns and, in between elections, she was an active executive member on our local electoral district and riding associations. Her passing is a huge loss to our New Democrat family in Cowichan and beyond. Rest in power, friend.”

Alistair MacGregor, NDP MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, added that Balding was a deeply caring person, and it showed in all of the volunteer work she did for the local community.

“She will be missed and never forgotten,” MacGregor said.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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