A resident marmot enjoys the spring sunshine at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre

A resident marmot enjoys the spring sunshine at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre

Gala helps fund centre

Since opening in 2000, the Allan Brooks Nature Centre has been the place to go to learn about the environment, to enjoy nature, spot the resident marmots, see bees at work and explore a “bear’s den.”

But in 1996, the former Vernon Upper Air Weather Station was derelict and heavily vandalized.

Thanks to a small group of visionary residents, the  Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society was founded to promote the enjoyment, understanding and stewardship of the North Okanagan’s diverse natural environment.

Named for famed local wildlife artist Allan Brooks, the centre is open May through October, welcoming school groups, tourists and locals who come up to take advantage of the 360-degree view of the valley, check out the displays and perhaps enjoy an al fresco meal on the picnic tables dotted around the property.

“We have a valley-wide reputation as a leader in environmental education and the promotion of sustainable resource management,” said Mel Maglio, volunteer and fundraising chairman at the centre. “In all its programs and undertakings, the Allan Brooks Nature Centre strives to educate and inform individuals that we need to change our way of life to minimize our impact on the natural world and to use our resources wisely.”

Centre manager Mary Jong said preparations are under way for this year’s opening.

“We’re busy getting ready and have set up our birds of prey display and developed a new display with the Cottonwood Riparian System,” she said. “It’s such a fun place to work, and we love getting the little kids up here, as they’re always so excited to check everything out.

“And we couldn’t do it without volunteers: last year, we probably had more than 5,000 volunteer hours.”

As a non-profit society, fundraising is crucial to the centre’s operations. And its biggest event of the year is the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Annual Fundraising Dinner and Auction April 8 at the Best Western Vernon Lodge, with all proceeds benefiting the centre.

“This is our major fundraiser and a significant portion of our annual revenue is raised at this event,” said Maglio. “Funds raised help with our school programs, interpretive displays and day-to-day operations.

“We receive no government funding and the centre is supported by its members, volunteers, donors and admission fees.”

Maglio said the event promises to be an elegant evening that includes a buffet dinner, live and silent auctions, with local auctioneer Kevin Rothwell, live entertainment, and the whole thing running smoothly thanks to master of ceremonies Mike Roberts, with CHBC.

“And we’re thrilled that Don Kassa and Priscilla have donated Okanagan wines for each table,” he said.

Organizers are still in the process of rounding up items for the auctions: the silent auction will consist of items valued from $25, while the live auction will be those with a higher profile. Some of the items available for bidding on include an original Robert Bateman print, a Tonny Moser print, golf passes and packages, three nights’ accommodation at Silver Star or four at Galiano Island, a Joan Heriot print, a gourmet three-course dinner prepared in your home by personal chef David Colombe, jewellery from Hagemann Jewellers, and dinner at Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen.

“Anyone who would like to donate an auction item is welcome to,” said Jong, adding that donors are always acknowledged unless they wish to remain anonymous. “We get a lot of the same businesses every year donating, and they are always very generous.”

Tickets to the dinner and auction are $65 per person, with a $25 charitable donation receipt provided for each ticket purchased.

“We want to encourage people to buy tables of eight for $520 per table, which would provide a $200 tax receipt for the table,” said Maglio.

Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller at 250-549-SHOW (7469) or online at www.ticketseller.ca. For more information about the centre, see www.abnc.ca.