From mental health to literacy, the Canada Post Heritage Club has taken up causes across the country.
Formed in 1989, the club is made up of retired Canada Post employees as well as those with at least 25 years of service, and now boasts about 30,000 members in 28 chapters across Canada.
In Vernon, the local chapter is headed up by president Gary Fisher, who represents Chapter 29 — the Central Yukootok Heritage Club, with members in the Yukon, Kootenays and Okanagan.
“We have just under 600 registered due-paying members; this year has been the highest since we’ve been doing it. We have three chapters in B.C.: Van Isle, Van-Fraser and ours,” said Gary.
He and his wife of 47 years, chapter secretary Wanda, moved from Ontario to Vernon in 1990 and once they settled into life in the North Okanagan with their daughter, who was then 12, they joined the local Heritage Club.
“The organization had just started, and when we moved here, I phoned and said I want to be in touch with the Heritage Club,” said Gary, 76. “Back in Ontario, I started working for Canada Post in 1958 as a letter carrier and worked myself up the ladder to a clerk, then a financial supervisor, in and out of different locations, and then my last 20 years I was postmaster in a small town in Ontario.”
The club has been involved in a number of different causes, and is happy to help wherever there is a need.
“Our slogan is people helping people and so basically what Canada Post wants us to do is to be good citizens, helping each other, helping organizations with fundraising and that sort of thing,” said Wanda. “One of the big things that our members participate in is the Santa Letter-Writing Program.”
Children across Canada and around the world write more than one million letters to Santa each holiday season. Each of those letters is answered by a volunteer, and hundreds of those volunteers are Heritage Club members.
Gary worked for Canada Post just shy of 32 years. Back in Ontario, he started the Santa letter program, long before it became a national initiative.
“Right now, their focus is actually community foundations. If you go to the post office and buy a special stamp, you pay more for it and that money goes to community foundations,” he said.
Wanda said in the last few years, the local chapter has donated more than $1,000 to the One to One Children’s Literacy Program in Vernon and has donated books to local schools.
The chapter is also involved with the literacy centre at Teen Junction.
“For two Christmases, we stocked their cupboards in their kitchen. We had our Christmas dinner and had everyone bring supplies; the centre gave me a list of what they could use such as mitts, scarves, toothbrushes, soaps and things like that,” said Gary.
Wanda said it’s all about giving back, wether it’s to hospitals, Legions, visiting shut-ins or helping Santas Anonymous, which provides birthday and Christmas gifts to children in need.
“It’s volunteering at almost anything, they just like members to be good volunteers,” she said, adding that the chapter recently made a $l,000 donation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Foundation for Penticton Regional Hospital and another donation of $200 to BC Children’s Hospital for their Tutorial Department.
“We try and keep it so it doesn’t get stale. We’ll switch it up and do something for a couple of years.
“There is always something people can help out with, whether it’s big or small.”
The club’s newest fundraiser is selling bucket style hats for $20, with proceeds going to B.C. Children’s Hospital for their tutorial department.
“We’ve had our third order in already, they are sort of picking up momentum and we take them to every single luncheon and dinner and to the campout.Give us a donation of $20 and we’ll give you a hat.”
A glance through the chapter’s newsletter reveals that while giving back is a fundamental aspect of the Heritage Club, so too are the friendships formed with members from across the country.
“That’s another part of Heritage Club, the camaraderie between members, and it extends nationwide,” said Wanda. “Because employees moved around a lot, from province to province, town to town. Many members have roots still attached to many places, and a lot of them still stay in contact. So when they travel, we encourage members to get in touch with each other.
Annual membership is $10, and spouses can join for $5. A newsletter goes out four times a year and members are encouraged to take part in activities that range from luncheons to golf tournaments.
“But you don’t have to be a member to come to our activities,” said Gary. “If you are retired or even semi-retired, come to one of our lunches and see the fun we have — and we don’t talk just about the post office.”
For the Fishers, membership in the club has meant the opportunity to visit communities such as and Dawson City, where they recently enjoyed dinner with other members as well as a private tour of the historic Dawson Post Office.
And unique to this chapter, the Fishers have taken their club on the road, organizing luncheons all over B.C.: Trail, Cranbook, Castlegar, all through the Kootenays and as far as Prince Rupert.
“Personally, it was the most fantastic trip, we stopped in Williams Lake and started in Clinton, stopping for lunch or coffee, and meeting members. It’s all about family, all the years you’ve built up with people,” said Wanda. “The first time we went to a luncheon in the South Okanagan, they were ecstatic and said they’ve never had a president visit. We do a lot of travelling, and have covered pretty much the entire province.”
For more information about the Heritage Club, please see heritageclub.ca