Heritage House joins community initiative supporting James Bay neighbourhood

For immediate release:

VICTORIA—Local publishers Heritage House Publishing and Rocky Mountain Books are donating 387 copies of their books through local initiative South Harbour Partners, which provides support for James Bay students and their families. Before the winter break, every student of the local K-5 public school, James Bay Community School, will receive two books appropriate to their grade level.

South Harbour Partners, now in its twenty-fifth year, is a group of volunteer-organized James Bay residents who coordinate fundraising and donations to James Bay Community School. Started by early Strata members at Harbourside condo in James Bay, South Harbour Partners has grown to include a total of seven Strata properties in the neighbourhood: Dallas Place, 188 Douglas, Shoal Point, Polo Pacific, Laurel Point, Pier One and Harbourside. Volunteer representatives from each building coordinate the campaign, raising funds, collecting donations, and distributing the supplies.

This will be the second year that Heritage House Publishing has donated books. Rodger Touchie, the publisher of Heritage House, who lives in James Bay with his partner, Pat, learned about the initiative from another resident, Myrna Fisher, the volunteer Program Coordinator for South Harbour Partners.

In 2019, Heritage House also donated books for the winter supply drive—one for every student. Touchie said, “After twenty years of having our home in James Bay, I continue to be inspired by the dedication of our local educators and their passion for nurturing literacy in our community.”

This year, Heritage House Publishing will be donating a total of 193 copies of nine different books, including Painted Fences and Scallywag of the Salish Sea by James Bay author Sara Cassidy.

Rocky Mountain Books will also be donating 194 books, a split between Takaya’s Journey, for the older grades, and Good Morning Takaya, a picture book for the younger students. Both books were written by Cheryl Alexander and the story of Tayaka, the lone wolf of Discovery Island, will likely be familiar to local families.

“Books are vital to learning, and the organisers and the school both deserve this type of ongoing support whenever possible,” said Don Gorman, publisher of Rocky Mountain Books.

“The opportunity to bring literacy and conservation together through a neighbourhood initiative like this is very exciting. The story of Takaya will hopefully continue to help foster a sense of community in James Bay,” said Gorman.

Louise Sheffer, principal of James Bay Community School, was excited to hear about the book donation, thereby broadening the scope of the project. Teachers will also be receiving classroom copies of all the books to review and in order to provide support for parents and guardians reading the books at home.

In addition to two books for every student, South Harbour Partners arranges for a variety of items to be sent home at the start of winter break. Treat bags include goodies like hot chocolate, chips and candy, plus toothpaste and toothbrushes donated by local dental offices. One big focus for donated funds is the purchase of $50 Thrifty Foods cards for distribution, as needed.

“The demographic of James Bay has shifted over the years,” states Fisher, “but systematic evaluation of multiple factors continues to place the James Bay Community School population in the ‘vulnerable’ category.”

While most donations are distributed prior to the holidays each year, remaining funds are also available for the school staff through the following year, for food, supplies, literacy initiatives, arts and culture experiences, and to enrich in-classroom education. These donations have been particularly vital during the pandemic when many local families experienced disrupted employment.

“This effort is completely volunteer-driven,” states Fisher. “Zero money goes to administration so donors appreciate knowing that every penny is addressing local needs.”

Volunteers with South Harbour Partners will be preparing the treat bags and gift packages on December 16, for distribution when students are dismissed for the holidays the following day.