Story and photo by Jason Schreurs, Powell River Peak
A staff member of Inclusion Powell River was recently honoured with a provincial award for his efforts linking community through music, and his work has only just begun.
Inclusion’s community connector Chris Weekes was presented with a Widening Our World (WOW) Award by Community Living BC (CLBC) on Friday, March 4, at Jean Pike Centre’s new ARC Community Theatre, an arts theatre that he has been instrumental in launching.
Weekes is one of five people in BC honoured with the award, chosen from 50 nominees. He said the award is a great way to promote Inclusion and the new community theatre.
“I’m very grateful to be one of the five people who were awarded,” said Weekes. “It’s wonderful for Inclusion Powell River and it will certainly help to raise the profile of Inclusion and the ARC.”
Weekes’ nomination by co-worker Lesley Thorsell, who works in employment services, was a welcome surprise to Inclusion executive director Lilla Tipton.
“I can’t think of anyone who deserves this more than Chris,” said Tipton. “He’s an example and a model for all of us.”
Weekes began his work with Inclusion when he moved here from Langley in October 2012. He incorporated music activities into his work from the start, including drum circles for Inclusion clients and the broader community.
Regular drum circles take place during colder months at Jean Pike Centre and at the Wharf at Westview during summer. Weekes said the community has welcomed him with open arms and he has been able to network with other musically-inclined individuals and organizations.
“It’s been phenomenal,” said Weekes. “It’s a rich community that has a lot going for it, so starting off I was already ahead of the game. I’ve been fortunate to work with people who are enthusiastic about building community.”
Part of Weekes’ job in recent months as community connector has been launching the ARC, located inside the former Powell River Evangel Pentecostal Church at 7055 Alberni Street, which also houses some of Inclusion’s services. Suitable for live music and community arts and culture gatherings, the theatre will see a full launch later this spring.
“It’s a really great space and when I became the community connector [in February 2015] I really saw its potential,” said Weekes. “We were using it for a lunch room and storage, but I knew when I saw it that it could be used for so much more.”
CLBC chief executive officer Seonag Macrae said individuals who are able to bring community together the way Weekes has are perfect candidates for the annual provincial awards.
“It seems to just come natural to him and inclusion is something he wouldn’t even have to think about,” said Macrae. “He genuinely wants to be part of a community and that is why he is being honoured.”
WOW awards for building community have been given out in BC since 2009. This year’s four other WOWs are being awarded to community leaders in Victoria and Chilliwack and two in Kelowna.