YMCA there for families
Contributed - Dec 09, 2019 - Think Local

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With a goal of spreading some holiday cheer, the YMCA of Okanagan hosted a free event for families called Crafts, Cookies and Carols this past Saturday at its Penticton child care centre.

“We are happy to be a part of the Penticton community, and we’re grateful to share the holiday spirit with families,” YMCA child care general manager Danielle Miranda says. “What better way to do that than to spend the afternoon enjoying festive treats, crafts and activities with Santa!”

The event took place at the YMCA’s Queens Park Child Care Centre at 630 Birch Ave., which opened to the community in the spring of 2019 offering care for ages 0-12 as well as preschool. 

Even Santa made an appearance, handing out candy canes and goodies to children in attendance.

The YMCA’s Queens Park Child Care Centre is relatively new to the community, but the local charity has been operating programs in Penticton for children, youth and families for more than 15 years, and is invested in helping families in the area realize their potential.

“At the YMCA of Okanagan, our goal is to build healthy, connected communities,” Miranda explains. “We are dedicated to helping children and families realize their potential, and that begins when a child is in their earliest years. We want to make sure families have the supports they need to receive quality care and education for their children and to remain connected in their community throughout every stage of their life—without financial means holding them back—which is what our local services and events like this are centred around.”

The charity’s local programs include after-school support for teens with autism, career development services, youth mindfulness services, family playtime and more—all offered free to the community.

And the Y’s child care centre is also accessible to all, with financial assistance available to families who cannot afford the full fee for care. 

“We want families to know that we are here for them,” Miranda says. “Whether it is an event like this, care for their children, or a support network of people who believe in them, the YMCA is here for families.”

Learn more about the variety of YMCA services available in Penticton, including child care and community programs.

Eye care answer is Vivid
Kirk Penton - Dec 02, 2019 - Think Local

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Amy Jasper is loving life after having eye surgery at Vivid Laser Centre.

Amy Jasper had always been hesitant to get laser eye surgery done.

Whether it was fear of the procedure, the cost or a lack of time to fit it into her life, Jasper was content to wear contact lenses or glasses for the last two decades.

She finally decided enough was enough. She was recently sitting 10 feet across the room from her parents—without glasses or contacts—and she couldn’t even make out the shape of her dad’s head. She did a little research online and talked to her family doctor, who recommended Dr. Ron Baldassare at Kelowna’s Vivid Laser Centre.

The 45-year-old Jasper had the procedure done on Sept. 12, and all she could think about afterwards was why she hadn’t done it sooner.

“I’m over the moon,” Jasper says. “I was a little bit of a nut afterwards, feeling over the moon and ridiculously excited. I was blown away by how different it was.

“Having the corrective surgery and being able to use my eyes without glasses or contact lenses was a miracle, really. The machine itself, it takes only five minutes or so. You’re on that table for five minutes, and then you can see. Why did I wait so long?”

Jasper felt more at ease with Dr. Baldassare going into the procedure because he is also a corneal specialist. At first she was focused only on price, but she ultimately realized that wasn’t the correct approach to take.

“It’s your eyes,” she explains. “You don’t necessarily want the best price. You want the best results. And having a corneal specialist was extra assurance knowing that if there is something that is unusual or goes wrong, God forbid, then he’s the one who’s going to be able to deal with it thanks to his expertise and knowledge.”

She says Dr. Baldassare was friendly and conversational, and his staff was the same way.

“The staff were all great that way, all very friendly, welcoming and approachable,” she says. “I didn’t feel any judgment if I asked a dumb question. It was just a good experience all around.”

Jasper said she was able to see the day after the procedure. She had to wear clear, plastic eye covers for the first 24 hours and during the first few nights so that she didn’t rub her eyes in her sleep. She had trouble seeing objects close to her eyes for the first couple of weeks, but that improved over time to where it’s no longer an issue.

Jasper is looking forward to going on camping trips with her family. No longer does she have to be careful when splashing in the water with her three kids for fear of losing her contacts.

“Poor eyesight is a type of disability,” Jasper says. “To suddenly be cured of it, it still just blows me away.”

Vivid Laser Centre now has financing for patients who want to have the procedure done but are concerned only about the cost. It is now able to do the procedure for as low as $42 a month on approved credit.

Photo: Contributed
Dr. Ron Baldassare offers laser eye surgery financing for as low as $42 per month.

Recycle with EcoEase
Contributed - Nov 27, 2019 - Think Local

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Do you know which items can be placed in your blue bin for recycling purposes and which ones cannot?

The list of ineligible materials is longer than you might think, which is why Quentin Thiessen and his wife Sarah have started a business they hope will help both you and the environment.

EcoEase Recycling will pick up the items you are not allowed to put in the recycling bin and haul them away to their proper resting place.

“Obviously we’re looking to run a profitable business, but at the same time we want to do what we can to help the environment,” Thiessen says. “We only have one planet to live on so we’d better do our best to look after it. Shortages in city resources have forced them to create new rules and unfortunately it’s been made more difficult for households to recycle these materials. Our goal is to provide a service that makes it easier for everyone, and hopefully more possible to fit into their already too busy schedule.

“A lot of people probably just trash these items because it is so much of an extra chore. With our landfill already nearing maximum use, we’re obligated to do everything we can to reduce our impact. Why sacrifice more of our valuable land for a new landfill before we have to? If our service encourages even just one Kelowna resident to make better choices when generating trash we will consider our venture a success.”

Did you know, for example, that you cannot put glass, styrofoam, chip bags, bread bags, shrink wrap, plastic shopping bags and bubble wrap into your blue recycling bin? All of those should be going to recycling depots—as if your life weren’t already busy enough. EcoEase will also help you if you have more recycling than your blue bin can handle.

Thiessen says EcoEase will also take your empties back to the depot for you if you don’t want to do it. All proceeds collected will be donated to charity.

The idea for EcoEase Recycling was born when Sarah informed Quentin that the plastic grocery bag he was holding in their kitchen could neither be thrown in the garbage nor put in the recycling bin.

“As soon as we were no longer allowed to put them in there,” Thiessen says, “that’s when all of this kind of started to aggravate me.”

Thiessen soon had a bin full of similar items and was looking for a way to get them to a recycling depot.

“I wanted to call somebody and have them come and take my stuff away and recycle it for me,” he says. “I didn’t want to spend the time going to the depot and doing it myself. I don’t have a lot of spare time as it is.

“I did a search and tried to find somebody that would do it, and there really wasn’t anybody. So I thought maybe that’s not a bad idea for a business. And here we are.”

All you have to do is call or text 250-258-2300 to get the process started. The cost of one bag or bin is $22, and the rest can be negotiated from there. All you have to do is bag your clean recyclables and leave it on the curb. EcoEase will pick it up and sort the materials for you.

“Our goal in the end is to try to reduce our carbon footprint and maybe get an electric truck,” Thiessen says. “At this time it’s not in the budget, but we want to try and do everything as eco-friendly as we can. We feel that less trips to the depot is already a step in the right direction.”

Energy efficiency takes a team
Contributed - Nov 23, 2019 - Think Local

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“Our goal is to continuously improve our operations. By taking a collaborative approach, our FortisBC key account manager helps us identify and fund energy-efficiency opportunities,” said Molycop Canada senior engineer Mike Gregson (right), along with Molycop Canada metallurgical engineer Lukas Fleming (centre) and FortisBC account manager Rajoo Jagtap (left).

Practical advice, expertise and ongoing customer support provided by FortisBC means Molycop Canada can keep growing its business while optimizing its energy needs, especially for natural gas.

With operations across the globe, Molycop is the largest and most experienced supplier of mining consumables and associated services worldwide. At its Canadian plant in Kamloops, alloy steel bars are forged into grinding balls in a proprietary process that relies on natural gas furnaces that operate non-stop.

This energy-intensive process has united Molycop Canada and FortisBC in an ongoing quest to boost efficiency while ensuring profitability and sustainability.

“Our goal is to continuously improve our operations,” Molycop Canada senior engineer Mike Gregson says. “By partnering with us—and taking a collaborative approach—our FortisBC key account manager helps us identify and fund energy-efficiency opportunities.”

Continuous improvement results in energy savings

Natural gas has been a part of Molycop Canada’s operations since 1986, but it’s been in the last decade that the company has deepened its commitment to energy efficiency. FortisBC has been there to support them, from pre-approval for energy studies to incentives for energy-efficiency upgrades.

In 2012 Molycop Canada was one of the first participants in FortisBC’s industrial energy efficiency programs. With incentives from FortisBC, a plant-wide energy audit of the Kamloops facility was completed.

Recommendations resulting from this energy study helped them design and build a second, more energy-efficient plant beside their existing facility in 2015. Molycop Canada received a combined incentive of $190,000 to implement energy-efficiency measures, which are estimated to save about 22,500 gigajoules of natural gas annually.

The pursuit of improvements continued in 2017, when plant-wide audits of both facilities and then a feasibility study recommended upgrades in the original facility. FortisBC supported the studies and capital upgrades with combined incentives of approximately $250,000, which is expected to reduce natural gas usage by 8,900 gigajoules per year once completed this year.

“Our key account manager, Rajoo Jagtap, helped us understand how we could connect with FortisBC to benefit from its programs and incentives,” Gregson says. “He made it easy to navigate the FortisBC application process, and the energy audit approval process was quick; four days from start to finish.”

Better for business; better for the environment

As part of Molycop Canada’s corporate best practices, energy-saving measures implemented at one facility are communicated and promoted across the globe. This is key to the company’s commitment to improve its environmental performance and use natural resources more efficiently across all of its operations.

In Kamloops, Molycop Canada continues to actively explore energy-saving opportunities that fit with its goals to improve processes, increase production and remain competitive in the market.

Along with the 2015 plant expansion, it has implemented several low or no-cost energy-saving measures identified in the energy studies, resulting in estimated savings of 13,500 gigajoules of natural gas per year.

“Optimizing our use of natural gas and reducing our carbon footprint are flip-sides of the same coin,” Molycop Canada metallurgical engineer Lukas Fleming says. “We look for solutions that make sustainable sense both for our business and for the environment.”

More information about FortisBC rebates and custom programs for commercial and industrial customers can be found on the company’s website.

Very Merry Vancouver
Contributed - Nov 21, 2019 - Think Local

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Walking across a breathtaking bridge suspended 230 feet above a river gorge and adorned with a million glittering lights.

Sightseeing in an old-fashioned trolley bus and singing karaoke carols from one unforgettable stop to another.

Strolling through a traditional German Christmas market, sipping on hot chocolate and shopping for that perfect holiday keepsake from one of its 80 jolly merchants.

As if there weren’t enough to draw you to Very Merry Vancouver during this most magical time of the year already.

But now Stay-Vancouver Hotels is enchanting tourists with an online advent calendar that is giving away attraction prizes every single day and the chance to win a grand prize of a luxurious, experience packed stay in Vancouver that will promise memories for a lifetime.

An evening under the big top of Cirque du Soleil’s latest masterpiece, Luzia. Explore four mystical worlds at the Aurora Winter Festival along with snow tubing, amusement rides in a natural setting and amidst massive light displays. Family passes to Santa’s winter wonderland at the Peak of Grouse Mountain and its awe-inspiring views of the city and the ocean below. A heartwarming cruise, lighting up Vancouver harbour, with carollers inviting you to join in song to celebrate this festive time of year.

And so much more.

More than 20, must-see holiday attractions and events are giving away tickets and gift packages as part of the Very Merry Vancouver promotion—not to mention hotel partners giving away accommodation as well.

VeryMerryVancouver.com is now welcoming online visitors to try and win those daily holiday prizes and encouraging those online visitors to visit Vancouver in person during the holiday season.

Already renowned for its natural beauty, cosmopolitan diversity, unbelievable food and shopping, Vancouver is now also sure to become known for one more thing: a perennial favourite for visitors seeking to enjoy the best of the holiday season with all that Very Merry Vancouver has to offer.

ONE Water rising quickly
Contributed - Nov 18, 2019 - Think Local

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ONE Water Street’s East Tower construction has reached 18 storeys, making it one of the tallest structures in Kelowna.

And it’s only halfway to the top.

“You start to really appreciate how tall this building is when we are halfway up, and we still have another half to build,” Kerkhoff Construction president and CEO Leonard Kerkhoff says.

The 2.9-acre development is a hotbed of activity these days, with three storeys being added every month on the 36-storey East Tower. Meanwhile, the West Tower podium construction is going full steam ahead as well, so that it will be completed concurrently with the East Tower getting topped off. That should happen in the spring, at which time the crew will move over to the 29-storey West Tower and propel it skyward.

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The developers, Kerkhoff Construction and North American Development Group, have already sold 367 of the 427 units in both towers, which works out to more than 86 per cent.

“We feel ONE Water is the best project compared to everything else coming into town, with its plethora of resort-inspired amenities and high level of finishing,” Kerkhoff says. “We have a lot of good products still available for sale, even though we are over 85 per cent sold.”

The desire of residents who wanted to live in the two tallest towers between the Lower Mainland and Calgary is clearly strong.

“It’s already impressive,” he says. “You drive past the project, and it’s 18 storeys and you’re really starting to see the structure of the podium coming together now. And standing back, you can look at the 18 storeys and easily imagine it being twice as tall, and that leaves an impression.”

One of the main attractions at ONE Water will be The Bench, a unique piece of land that will be located between the two towers. It will be situated four storeys above street level, and it will have anything and everything you could possibly want when it comes to enjoying Okanagan urban living.

There will be three pools—a swimming pool, a lap pool and a hot tub—three barbecue areas for large family gatherings complete with natural gas hookups and tables on which to enjoy your meal, several fire pit enclaves and a court for pickleball, which is becoming a popular sport across North America and especially in Kelowna. There will also be dog park, business centre, guest suites for out-of-town visitors, two gyms and a poolside entertainment room.

“We’ve designed it to be a highly desirable place to live,” Kerkhoff says. “And I feel that we are positively impacting the downtown core by adding this very well designed, community oriented, beautiful development.”

It’s no wonder that Western Investor earlier this week declared Kelowna as the No. 1 city in Western Canada to invest in real estate over the next 12 months.

“It has been great to be contributing in such a positive way to the growth of Kelowna the past several years,” Kerkhoff says, “driving new growth into downtown Kelowna and creating this master planned community.”

Facing grief is key to healing
Contributed - Nov 13, 2019 - Think Local

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We all experience many losses, yet the topic of grief is often avoided. Instead of trying to avoid or deny grief it is best to acknowledge and confront it after you’ve suffered a loss.

That will be the overriding theme when the Central Okanagan Hospice Association conducts a presentation called Befriending Grief on National Bereavement Day.

“Far too many people view grief as something to be overcome rather than experienced,” COHA counsellor Jessica Hughes says. “It’s actually in leaning towards the pain—befriending it, if you will—that will facilitate the eventual healing.”

This will mark the first time COHA has held a formal event on National Bereavement Day, which this year is Tuesday, Nov. 19. Befriending Grief will take place from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. at Kelowna’s Kanata Hotel and Conference Centre, which is located at 2429 Hwy 97 North.

The presentation is free to attend, and COHA will be providing refreshments and snacks during the event.

The overall theme on this year’s National Bereavement Day is “coping with grief together through living and grieving.”

Hughes will be one of four speakers who will impart their knowledge during the event. COHA’s director of bereavement services will teach attendees the difference between grief and mourning, how grief can show up and ways to offer support to those around you.

Mary Ellen McNaughton will speak to the importance of ceremony, Suzanne Thompson will address how to get through the holidays after a loss, and Shawn Cook-Bunka will instruct parents how to support children through grief.

“The most important thing that I will be talking about is how to work with your children during difficult times,” Cook-Bunka says. “Oftentimes kids are overlooked, because parents are trying to protect them. It’s just as important for them to be included in the whole process.”

The event will conclude with a question-and-answer session for those who have any other questions or concerns about grief.

“There’s always a need for it,” Hughes said of the presentation. “It’s a topic that needs to be discussed more.

“It’s for anyone that is seeking a deeper understanding for themselves and/or someone they’re supporting. It could be helpful for anyone.”

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Y giving away downtown fun
Contributed - Nov 08, 2019 - Think Local

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Kelowna is the largest city between Vancouver and Calgary, yet it still gives off that small-town vibe.

And that is the exact kind of atmosphere you will find at the Kelowna Downtown YMCA.

“We get so invested in our members,” health, fitness and membership coach Collin Polmear says. “On the flip side of that, they kind of get to know us and our lives and ask us questions. It’s kind of like a big family, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. My GM always makes the joke that it’s like Cheers, because everybody knows your name.”

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Kelowna Downtown YMCA has been open for just more than two years, and the gym recently teamed up with neighbouring businesses for a contest called “We Love Downtown” in an effort to get to know more people in the core.

Anyone who signs up for a free, seven-day trial at the Downtown Y will have a chance to win $1,500 worth of gift cards from Sprout Bread, Okanagan Lifestyle Apparel, BNA Brewing Co., Loyal Hair Therapy, The Curious Artistry and Alchemy Café, Lululemon and Karat Chocolate. The winner will also secure a one-year membership to the gym. Current members can also get in on the contest; if they bring in a friend or family member who signs up for a seven-day trial, both will get a ballot.

Polmear basically wants his family to grow. He also endeavours to improve the overall health of everyone who walks through the doors.

“Our huge strategic objective is to help as many people as possible in the community get healthy,” Polmear says. “We know 80 per cent of the population does not exercise enough to see any physical health benefit. Yeah, abs are great, and we can get there if that’s your goal. But at the end of the day we really truly care about people’s health first and foremost.”

That kind of attitude is why the vibe at the Kelowna Downtown Y is more small town and less big city. The demographic reflects the family feel at the gym as well, as the older members who live in nearby condominiums are the most dedicated class takers early in the day, the business crowd comes around lunch time, and the younger generation works out in the evening.

The gym features a 7,500 square-foot fitness centre, a full suite of cardio and strength equipment, Netflix and Spotify on all cardio equipment, functional fitness areas, an 800 square-foot group fitness studio, and a dedicated cycle studio.

“The big thing that sets us apart is if you want a different, non-typical atmosphere for a gym,” Polmear says. “If you’ve tried all the other gyms and they intimidate you or you just don’t like the vibe, this is the place you want to be. This is community. This is family.”

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Vantage named Kelowna’s best
Contributed - Nov 07, 2019 - Think Local

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Vantage West Property Management looks out for both its investors and its tenants, which is why founder AJ Hazzi believes the company is now feeling the love.

VW Property Management was recently named Consumer’s Choice Award’s best property management firm in Kelowna, which Hazzi didn’t even know his company was in the running for until he found out it had captured the honour.

“The credit obviously goes to the awesome property managers that we have at the property management office,” Hazzi says. “It feels awesome to be recognized.”

Hazzi points to his company’s vast number of five-star reviews on Google as testimony for a job well done. Hazzi says it only made sense to bring the best to an industry that has mostly underserved the public.

“The bar is pretty low in property management from a service standpoint,” Hazzi says. “For us, on the sales side, everything is about creating a five-star experience for our clients. The real competitive advantage from my perspective, as an investor, is that we are managing real estate rental properties for an investor from an investor’s vantage point. We’re investors ourselves. We know how to maximize returns. We know what keeps investors up at night. And we’re managing with that in mind.”

On the other side of the coin, Vantage West Property Management works with its tenants as much as possible to build the relationship. It also offers a rent-to-own program with the goal of turning renters into buyers.

“We’ve repaired that adversarial relationship between landlord and tenant, because we truly see tenants as clients,” Hazzi says. “If they’re going to stay in a rental property for five years and pay off our seller’s mortgage and care for their asset, they are truly a client who should be valued.

“And on the flip side if they are planning on eventually buying a home, we want to empower them and educate them and help them along that process. We see them as clients in training from that perspective.”

As a reward for hitting their 2019 goals, Hazzi is sending his team members to the Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico, on an all-expenses-paid trip.

VW Property Management also puts out a quarterly update on average rents for various property types in an effort to keep clients and the public informed along with its list of available properties.

The Vaults all about you
Contributed - Nov 04, 2019 - Think Local

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If you are looking for simple storage, The Vaults is likely not for you.

If you are looking to create a space that is full of life, vibrancy and inspiration—along with your boat or cars or recreational vehicles, of course—then what are you waiting for? The Vaults has seven units remaining at its Kelowna location, which is nearing the end of construction and is expected to start passing units over to owners by the end of the year.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either, when it comes to designing your space. Storing your cars, boats and RVs is cool and all, but having the space reflect your lifestyle is what The Vaults wants to see its clients enjoying.

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“If they’re looking for a lifestyle around what they store—and we truly believe that you love what you’re storing—The Vaults is a great solution,” The Vaults vice-president James Murray says. “With that, it’s the customization element that’s important. The space does become their own. All of our units have a uniqueness to them in construction and design. They’re not a cookie cutter.

“… I would love to be able to see someone have their personal art space in there. Have a gallery on the main floor and their artist loft up on the mezzanine. There are so many uses. While we’re very car-centric, we go beyond that. It’s really lifestyle storage.”

The Vaults Kelowna has only two units of 1,677 square feet remaining on the market, but the biggest daddy of them all—the 4,600 square-foot monster—was snapped up recently. The earlier in the construction process a unit is purchased, the easier and more cost effective it is for clients to incorporate their ideas into the space.

“What’s quite cool is some of the themes that people put into their space that they could never do in their home” Murray says. “We have one unit in Calgary where there are five different graffiti artists with massive graffiti art on the wall. You can carve out and make this space completely unique to you. It’s a piece of you, but it doesn’t have to be there every single day like it would be at home.”

Each unit includes a mezzanine overlooking the bigger space on the main floor, large windows and a three-piece bathroom. The walls went up in mid-August, the roof is on now, the windows are being put in place, the asphalt paving is complete, and this week the main overhead door will be installed.

The premier secured storage condominiums are located in Airport Business Park near Kelowna International Airport, and the company will be hosting a milestone event on Thursday, Nov. 21, to give its clients and potential clients a clearer vision of what they’re getting. The Vaults has designers who take a client’s vision and bring it to life.

“When people get a chance to walk in and see the space today with the mezzanines in place, they can start to get a better feel for what that space could be for them,” Murray says. “How many cars they could fit? How many boats? If an RV needs to be in there. If they’re looking to have a bit of a personal office space. If they’re looking for an extension of a recreational space from their house or their condo.

“It gives them a feel for what they can create and how this will enhance their lifestyle.”

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