The pulse of the Shuswap is strong in many ways, but there is room for improvement in others.
This is one of the findings contained in a Shuswap Community Foundation report released today.
Part of a Community Foundations of Canada program, Shuswap’s Vital Signs is the local foundation’s first attempt to take the pulse of the region’s communities.
A total of 10 issues were considered in assessing the overall health and vitality in the report that included input received from a Vital Signs survey.
A total of 288 respondents graded each of the categories from A (Awesome – our community is doing great) through to D (Of concern, we need to focus on this).
Respondents, primarily female (69 per cent) did not give any Ds. They awarded one A, four Bs, one C-plus, two Cs and two with a C-minus.
The A went to Arts & Culture, an area in which the foundation has contributed $49,000 to many organizations throughout the Shuswap in the past two years.
In 2011, 235 people had occupations related to culture, recreation and sport, an increase of 17.5 per cent from 2006.
Also on the rise were visits to the art gallery – a 10 per cent increase in exhibition attendance from 2012 to 2013 and a 20 per cent increase in Family Saturday attendance.
On the down side, attendance at the Wednesday on the Wharf concert series was down nine per cent.
Bs were handed out to Belonging and Leadership, Health & Wellness, Learning and Safety.
Some 95 per cent of residents aged 12-plus reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with overall quality of life, higher than the B.C. average by four per cent.
The median value of charitable donations for Salmon Arm in 2012 was $430 – a full 59 per cent higher than the Canadian average.
In the citizen feedback section, a respondent expressed concern that not-for-profit organizations would fail to survive due to aging demographics.
Noting these organizations would not exist without community volunteers, the report reveals the foundation has contributed $165,875 in grant funding over the last three years to volunteer-led community service organizations.
Education also earned a B from survey respondents, with one person encouraging continued growth for Okanagan College to keep students at home and continued support for the Literary Alliance of the Shuswap Society.
Another respondent asked for continued support for the library, an organization that saw a 41 per cent increase in downloadable books from 2012 and a whopping 231 per cent increase from 2011.
The foundation has granted more than $60,000 to a wide variety of learning projects over the past two years.
“An overall sense of safety and security affects how residents participate in the community life, interact with their neighbours and move freely throughout their region without fear,” says the report.
While respondents gave a B, there are a number of issues: As the population swells in the summer, the S.A.F.E. Society responds to an increased number of calls for crisis and assault.
Statistics show the sexual assault rate for Salmon Arm in 2013 was one per 1,600 residents – 13 per cent above the B.C. average and a 57 per cent increase from 2012.
Another concern is that only 30 RCMP officers serve the area – 19 in the City of Salmon Arm, five for rural Salmon Arm and six for Sicamous.
For Salmon Arm alone, this is about 1.1 officer per 1,000 residents – 42 per cent below the B.C. average.
Health and Wellness also scored a B, an area in which the foundation has four endowment funds that contribute $7,000 annually to the Shuswap Hospital Foundation.
The Environment category scored a C-plus from respondents and a cautionary comment attributed to the Fraser Basin Council that “groundwater samples drawn from Blind Bay-Sorrento, White Lake and Sunnybrae occasionally exceeded Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.”
Also noted – 43 per cent of the Shuswap Lake shoreline was estimated to be highly impacted by human activity in 2009.
Although respondents gave it a C, half of Salmon Arm households in 2010 spent 30 per cent or more on housing – substantially higher than the 40 per cent Canadian average. The work category also earned a C.
While the foundation contributes to numerous projects annually that result in either temporary or permanent job creation, the 2013 labour force participation rate was 61.8 per cent, lower than the provincial average of 64.1 per cent.
The Gap Between Rich & Poor and Getting Around, both earned C-minus, leading one respondent to remark on the wealth category: “There is a significant gap between the rich and poor in this community. The wages for entry-level jobs are quite low, which pushes people away to larger communities.”
While 24.6 per cent of families have an annual income of more than $100,000, 2,000 visits to the Salvation Arm Food Bank per month have already been recorded this year.
Survey respondents asked for extended hours and further reach for transit service and a regional service to provide better access to education and employment opportunities.
The foundation will produce a second report in two years measuring changes and identifying trends.
The full report can be accessed at the Shuswap Community Foundation’s website at www.shuswapfoundation.ca, or pick up a copy at the foundation office located at 50 Lakeshore Dr. NE.