AWARE under new management 

Group to continue ahead with current priorities

After two years as the president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, Mitch Rhodes had this advice to offer as he stepped down from the role: "Get involved. Jump into it feet first, because you will never regret it. You can make a difference."

Rhodes will stay on the executive board in a new role as past-president, where he will assist the new president. He also took on the more onerous job as AWARE’s treasurer, something that is becoming more difficult as the group’s fundraising efforts have started to pay dividends.

As of Nov. 30, the group had a total equity of $54,666, almost $32,660 of which has been committed to various AWARE campaigns, including $2,660 for the Wilderness Backyard campaigns in the Elaho and South Chilcotins, $2,500 for wetlands projects, $8,500 for community composting, $1,000 for the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan, $3,000 for transportation initiatives, $5,000 for a legacy project, and $10,000 for the rehabilitation of the Emerald Forest.

Eckhard Zeidler, who stepped down as treasurer at last weekend’s AGM, believes AWARE is in a good spot financially.

"This year we were able to increase our capacity to do work here," he said.

"When last year ended we had $53,000 in the bank for our campaigns. We’re in about the same place this year even after a fair amount of work spent on campaigns. A lot of that money is committed, we’re just waiting for someone to take it off our hands."

The largest contributors to the group include the Vancouver Foundation, the Community Foundation of Whistler, the Municipal Grant in Aid program, the Endswell Foundation, Tides Canada and the Bell Canada Foundation. Tourism Whistler donated the proceeds from their annual locals’ day at the golf course to the group, and Carney’s Waste Management Systems and Telus also made contributions.

As well, the Whistler-Blackcomb Environmental Fund and the Chateau Whistler Employees’ Fund contributed to the organization’s campaign.

"That is money contributed by employees who may not be making a lot of money, who voted where they wanted it to go, which says a lot for this community and AWARE," said Zeidler.

Although it was nice to have money in the bank, the highlight of the evening was the guest appearance of Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaign co-ordinator Joe Foy. Foy discussed current WCWC campaigns, including a few that overlap with AWARE’s Wilderness Backyard campaign.

Following Foy’s presentation, AWARE elected a new board and executive for 2003.

Wendy Horan stepped up to become the new president.

"As new president I hope to continue the momentum established over the past two years by Mitch Rhodes," said Horan. "Mitch’s leadership has carried AWARE a long way, helping to streamline our areas of focus and provide a respected but responsible voice in our community. His contributions have been invaluable. We are content that he will remain actively involved through his new position as treasurer on our executive."

Horan also said she was looking forward to working with the other directors of AWARE.

"All bring individual skills and unique strengths that make this group so vibrant. 2003 will be a productive year for our various committees; the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Bid, Our Wilderness Backyard, Sustainability, Valley Bottom and Wetlands, Transportation and Composting committees. Our agenda is already very busy.

"As president I hope to continue helping AWARE gather strength as Whistler’s primary environmental watchdog."

Horan has been a member of AWARE for two years and sits on the Valley Bottom and Wetland committee. She is also a member of the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group.

She is currently taking a post-graduate degree in habitat restoration through the University of Victoria’s distance education program, and holds a B.Sc. in environmental sciences with majors in waste management and ecology.

Inge Flanagan will return once again as vice president.

Brad Kasselman stepped down as the second vice president to allow the creation of a "past-president" position which will be occupied by Mitch Rhodes. Rhodes also took on the role of treasurer.

Karina Andrus, who is new to the board, assumed the role of secretary.

Other directors include Michele Comeau, Leanne Lamour, Allana Hamm, Monica Dupras, Brad Kasselman, Keenan Moses, and Jamie McKay.

AWARE’s first regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 6 in a downstairs conference room at the Delta Whistler Resort at 7 p.m. Guest speaker to be announced.


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