Chemainus-Thetis-Penelakut FAC co-chair Keith Rush with his seven-month old grandson, Henry. (Photo courtesy BC Ferries)

Chemainus-Thetis-Penelakut FAC co-chair Keith Rush with his seven-month old grandson, Henry. (Photo courtesy BC Ferries)

Rush, Cross exemplary volunteers

Meet your Chemainus-Thetis-Penelakut-ferry advisory committee co-chairs

The truth is Keith Rush had no intention of joining the BC Ferries Ferry Advisory Committee but a decade ago when his wife Ellen made the suggestion he begrudgingly gave it a shot.

“We were doing a big renovation on our home at the time and I didn’t want to add anything else (to my plate),” says Rush, now co-chair of the committee. “She thought it would be a good fit and it turns out I really enjoy it.”

Sharon Cross, the other co-chair, didn’t have a home reno on the go, but she did have plenty of other responsibilities when the call came.

“I’m a council member for the Penelakut Tribe and I work in the administration office,” says Cross. “When our ferry advisory position was vacated I stepped in and assumed the responsibility.”

The pair has now been working together for the better part of a decade and are co-chairs for the Chemainus-Thetis-Penelakut Ferry Advisory Committee. They are being celebrated for their dedication during National Volunteer Week which runs April 24-28. Empathy in Action is this year’s theme and builds awareness around the experiences of different community members to work collectively together towards common goals.

“Listening to what is affecting people and understanding their view of the situation is very important in this position,” says Cross.

Being an active listener is a skill ingrained in Cross, who as an elected member of council is constantly balancing what she hears from constituents and then doing what she feels is best based on grassroots input.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rush. “The ability to listen cannot be overstated. When people are upset they need someone local to listen to how they feel and understand that.”

FAC chairs and members work year-round to provide BC Ferries with advice and insight that helps inform day-to-day operations, terminal and vessel improvements, schedule changes and other initiatives. FAC chairs don’t get days off. They answer emails, phone calls and questions from community members 24/7.

“The community insight and understanding that our Ferry Advisory Committees provide us with is invaluable. We rely on them not only for community-centred advice, but also helping us get information out to the community, especially when changes are afoot,” says Brian Anderson, vice president of Strategy and Community Engagement. “The committees do a phenomenal job and we are grateful for their dedication and the long hours we know they put in to their work with us.”

All that effort does bear fruit. Rush cites the collaborative work on a schedule that saved money, kept fares down and even resulted in some community investment. Cross agrees collaboration is key and applauds her fellow FAC members with how adept they’ve been at balancing everyone’s needs.

Juggling different opinions and priorities is a skill both carry into their personal lives.

“Fitness is at the top of the agenda, but my wife and I also like to bake and garden,” says Rush. “I love to bird watch, work with other community planning teams and enjoy our three young grandchildren,” he adds matter-of-factly.

For Cross’ part, “I enjoy supporting my husband with his slo-pitch ball team and I like to travel, of course.”

If you’re interested in becoming part of the Chemainus-Thetis-Penelakut Ferry Advisory Committee, you’re invited to reach out to Cross at Sharon@penelakut.ca or Rush at keithrush17@gmail.com.

FAC Facts:

* There are 13 Ferry Advisory Committees situated in communities up and down the coast of B.C.

* Committees are generally made of up of 8-12 members who represent ferry dependent communities.

* FAC members bring a wide variety of voices and perspectives to the table. A committee’s composition depends on the community, and often includes representatives such as: full-time and part-time residents, the tourism industry, commuters, seniors, businesses, commercial goods and service providers and many more.

This past year, FAC members have helped with:

* Understanding the complex use of ferry service in the Southern Gulf Islands.

* Developing new schedules for two-ship service for Gabriola Island and Quadra Island.

* Adjusting and communicating service and schedule changes during pandemic recovery.

* Providing early input on terminal development plans.

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