Lorna Visser Awarded Queen’s Medal for Exceptional Community Service

Medal Presentation Speech by Mr. Walter Popoff, Director, Regional District of Central Kootenay Area H

Lorna Visser is known for the verve and enthusiasm with which she takes on projects and causes.  She has shown exceptional commitment to community service in the Slocan Valley where I am a Regional District of Central Kootenay Director — that is what led me to nominate Lorna for this Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for Exceptional Community Service.

Lorna is proud to call herself an environmentalist and in her professional work as a fundraising and communications consultant she has helped many charitable and community organizations be more effective and raise more money for protecting forests, wetlands, lake-shore and other conservation lands.  But the achievement that led me to recommend her for this Medal is the massive volunteer effort she devoted a couple of years ago to the campaign to acquire the Valhalla Mile.

The Valhalla Mile is a 155-acre parcel of pristine forest featuring a mile of undeveloped Slocan Lake shoreline.  When the opportunity arose to purchase this private in-holding situated within the boundaries of Valhalla Provincial Park to make it part of the Park, Lorna did not hesitate.  “Wayne (husband Wayne McCrory) and I talked about the opportunity to protect that stretch of lakeshore and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that campaign had my name on it,” said Lorna.

“I knew that to raise $1.5 million dollars in a short period of time wouldn’t be easy, but I sensed that the community would support this — I knew how much people locally love Slocan Lake and the natural shoreline on the west side.   I took a leap of faith that we could convince large funders such as the Columbia Basin Trust and the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program to coalesce around this opportunity.  Everything about it was just so right.”

Lorna plunged into creating a multifaceted fundraising campaign that included a variety of special events including dances, concerts and dinners, developed a successful “Give Us An Inch And We’ll Take A Mile” gift certificate, and worked collaboratively with politicians and bureaucrats at all levels to ensure broad governmental support for the land acquisition.

Lorna tirelessly co-ordinated communications materials such as brochures and posters, generated a steady stream of media articles, and kept the momentum of the campaign going during an intense year-and-a-half of publicity and outreach.  She and partner Wayne (a noted bear biologist) prepared massive grant proposals and ensured that the numerous hoops of institutional and government funders were jumped through backward and forward.  They sent out hundreds of personalized fund-solicitation packages and spent many late nights writing thank-you cards to donors and much logistical time co-ordinating hundreds of volunteers.

Lorna is quick to point out that the Valhalla Mile acquisition campaign was a success thanks to Wayne and other McCrory family members who jumped in as a way to honour the memory of their deceased sister Colleen McCrory (environmental hero and one of the original campaigners for the creation of Valhalla Provincial Park).  Lorna also wishes to share the honour of this award with the dedicated staff and volunteers at The Valhalla Foundation and The Land Conservancy of BC.

The Valhalla Mile is now part of Valhalla Provincial Park, open for all to enjoy in perpetuity as wild lakeshore and parkland.  It’s a permanent legacy for the Slocan Valley that Lorna and Wayne and all who worked with them can be proud of…

I would also like to note that beyond her work on the Valhalla Mile, Lorna has been an animator of many other community endeavours.

She has served on numerous boards including the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society and the Hills Recreation Society.  Every fall she helps make the Hills Garlic Festival happen – she can often be seen at that event dressed in a garlic costume, brightening people’s day as the festival mascot.  She also helped raise a good portion of the funds necessary to build the new Hills Fire Hall & Community Building – she may not be able to swing a hammer but she’s a great fund-raiser.

Most recently, Lorna has been encouraging and shepherding the establishment of the Slocan Valley Legacy Fund.  Lorna was a founding board member and is currently on the communications committee.  This new Fund which operates under the auspices of the Osprey Community Foundation raises money to be held in perpetuity with the interest granted yearly to worthy community  groups in the Slocan Valley.  As it grows, the Legacy Fund has the potential to be a major force for local philanthropy and community resiliency.

[Date: February 10, 2013]

Queen's Award group photo
At the presentation ceremony: Member of the Legislative Assembly Katrina Conroy, fellow Queen’s medal recipient Richard Allin, RCMP officer, Queen’s medal recipient Lorna Visser and Regional District Director Walter Popoff who presented the medals on behalf of the Governor General of Canada.