Efforts of a non-profit society to boost safety on the Semiahmoo Peninsula through supporting community policing initiatives took an unexpected twist this year.
And while officials with the Semiahmoo Volunteer Community Police Society acknowledge there was much angst leading up to the change – which ended the society’s longtime funding of community-policing initiatives in South Surrey – the outcome has ultimately been an increased ability to help.
“The idea is to expand our impact on safety,” society president Darren Alexander (pictured at left) told Peace Arch News last week.
“It’s a great time to be involved.”
The society has been in place since 1993, launched by former White Rock RCMP community policing constable Mike Lane, who passed away two years ago.
For more than two decades, volunteers involved have raised around $30,000 annually to support community policing initiatives in the two communities.
Programs that have benefited have included Code Blue (a fitness program that runs in a number of Surrey high schools), the Drug Awareness and Resistance Education program and Speed Watch.
But while the White Rock office continues to make use of the funds allocated by the society, Alexander said last year, just half of the $11,000 budgeted for South Surrey (District 5) was used, and none of this year’s funds have been touched.
The explanation given – which Alexander emphasizes is not being made at the local level – points to a desire by the city and Surrey RCMP to maintain uniformity across the district offices, he said.
It led to a decision by the society to diversify its efforts – the focus remains on safety, however, it is now extending beyond policing borders.
City and RCMP officials could not be reached for comment by Peace Arch News’ deadline.
Janet Bernat, the society’s director of marketing and events, noted there is still money available for South Surrey community policing, however, if another good use for it arises, “we’re not waiting for them.”
In the last couple of months, the society has dispersed funds to the White Rock Firefighters’ Charitable Association ($6,000) for its all-abilities park initiative, to the Semiahmoo Peninsula Marine Rescue Society ($6,000) for the purchase of thermal-imaging equipment and to Semiahmoo Animal League Inc. ($5,000), which works to improve the lives of at-risk children and animals.
Dry grad plans of the three public high schools were also supported with $500 each.
Bernat described the change of course as positive.
“One door closes, another one opens,” she said.
“We don’t have any hard feelings,” added Alexander.
A change to the society’s name is also being considered as a result, however, that will have to wait until next year’s annual general meeting, as it requires a vote.
For now, the focus is on the annual fundraiser that makes it all possible. Set for 6-10:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at Sammy J’s Grill & Bar (15770 Croydon Dr.), the Red Serge Dinner & Auction is already three-quarters sold out.
Given the society’s move to diversify, it’s hoped the evening – dubbed Heroes with Heart – will exceed previous fundraising totals. Highlights are to include a three-course dinner, a travel draw and live and silent auctions.
Tickets, $110, are available through www.semiahmoovolunteerpolicing.org