The Cowichan Lake Community Services Society is renaming its building after its long-time executive director Carol Blatchford. Pictured, from left, are representatives Amanda Sawatzky, Gerry Knox, Colleen Olson and Melaina Patenaude. (Robert Barron/Gazette)

Lake Cowichan’s Carol Blatchford to be honoured in building renaming

Blatchford was executive director of community services society for decades

Carol Blatchford will soon be honoured for her 32 years of service to the Cowichan Lake Community Services Society.

The non-profit society intends to rename its building on Point Ideal Road after Blatchford, the long-time executive director of the CLCS before her retirement in June.

The society provides programs and facilities to the people of the Cowichan Lake area intended to enhance and support the quality of their lives through education, prevention, recreation, counselling and support groups.

Amanda Sawatzky, a family therapist who has been with CLCS for 27 years, said it’s only fitting to rename the building after Blatchford considering all the work she did to access funding and galvanize the community to help construct it in the late 1990s, as well as all the other work she has done over the years.

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“Renaming the building after her is a way to honour her many contributions to this community,” Sawatzky said.

“This building was first conceived under Carol’s leadership. She managed to find some government money, and funding from the Vancouver Foundation, Telus plus lots of donations from the community, including time and labour, to build it. Even the architect who designed the building donated his time.”

Gerry Knox, who has been the officer manager at CLCS for 27 years, said Blatchford was loved and respected by all the organization’s workers, volunteers and clients.

She said Blatchford isn’t being told that the building will be named after her until the last moment, and it’s hoped she will be pleasantly surprised.

“Carol created a work environment where people wanted to be employed, and the number of long-term staff here is a testament to her leadership,” Knox said.

“It was great to work with her and she definitely needs to be recognized for her contributions to the CLCS and the community.”

Blatchford has been replaced with Melaina Patenaude as executive director of the CLCS, who she handpicked for the position herself before she retired.

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Patenaude, who graduated with a masters degree in community development in Alberta and has a background in nutrition, has worked with the United Way with homeless strategies in Nanaimo and Duncan, among other initiatives, before taking over her new position in June.

She said she has lots of ideas to bring to the table at CLCS.

“We have this huge, amazing building that’s underutilized and there are a number of things that could work here,” Patenaude said.

“We have a commercials kitchen, but no permit for it to operate, so I’m working with [Island Health] to get the permit reinstated. Members of the community can then use the kitchen as needed. I have a background in dietetics so I’m also looking at sprucing up the back yard and introducing garden boxes to grow food. Working with their hands in the soil will help some of our clients in therapy programs, and fresh food can be grown there for local use as well.”

Patenaude said the CLCS also has a 15-seat “fun” bus that hasn’t operated since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but it could be rented to community groups and other organizations as long as health protocols are followed.

“I’m also looking at some enhancements and upgrades for the building, which is getting older,” she said.

“The more fresh it is, the more people will feel at home here. I’m really going to enjoy working here.”

Patenaude said if any members of the public have any suggestions for the CLCS, they can email comserve@comserve.org.

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