COLUMN: Building on community

The sense of community in large cities like Surrey and Vancouver is sometimes difficult to fathom. While it exists in many ways, in organizations and neighbourhoods, a city-wide sense of community is usually absent. Certainly in Surrey, it’s been a long time since the vast majority of residents have been deeply committed or moved by any single event.

In White Rock, it still exists. The strong sense of community is one reason there has been a lot of attention paid to the takeover of the White Rock water utility by the city (for a yet-undisclosed figure) and more recent plans to add chloramine to the water supply. That has prompted a furious reaction that landed at city hall.

City council passed a motion unanimously to halt chloramination, but to some degree it will be out of their hands. Dr. Michelle Murti, medical health officer at Fraser Health Authority, said that total coliform counts over the summer indicated “we have a problem with the distribution system,” requiring secondary disinfection.

At least some of the wells also have high levels of arsenic and manganese. That means the water system does need improvements.

There will be much more discussion about the White Rock water utility in coming months, as more details about the disinfection plan and the sale price emerge. Also planned is the release of a report from Metro Vancouver outlining the projected costs of joining the region’s water system.

On the subject of community, there is Cloverdale.

Its significant sense of community was obvious at a memorial service for longtime businessman and community leader Allan Dann on Saturday. He died in December at the age of 91.

He lived an amazing life. Born in Surrey in 1924, he lived and worked in Cloverdale for most of his life. He took over his father Ernie’s radio and electrical business after returning from service in the Second World War, working for many years alongside his mother Doris.

When he closed his business in January 2013, his family had operated it for almost 92 years. It was the oldest continuously family-operated business in Surrey – by a long shot.

Dann’s grandson Ben, who lives in Houston, Texas and works on the international space station, noted his grandfather was a member of what Tom Brokaw labelled “the greatest generation.”

Cloverdale was a great place to grow up in the 1950s and ’60s. It was a small town, but it was a town made up of a lot of “greatest generation” people. They were determined to make something of their lives and raise their kids so they could experience even more opportunities

Many, like Dann, had experienced the Second World War firsthand and came back ready to make a better world. They started new businesses, strengthened existing ones, taught school, got involved in community organizations and turned Cloverdale into a thriving community.

Many business people, including Dann, were part of the local volunteer fire department. Longtime volunteer chief Alan Clegg noted on Saturday that one time, Dann was called to a fire. He took down the address from the dispatcher and realized it was his own house.

He, Clegg and George Coupland, longtime co-publisher and production man at The Surrey Leader, responded with two trucks and knocked down the blaze. Thankfully, Dann’s wife Brenda and their children were safely out of the house.

In a community like that, people take care of each other.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.


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