FOR ALL HER ACCOMPLISHMENTS, which were many, Katherine McParland’s greatest legacy is how she made us feel. She helped us come together as a community. She gave us the gift of wanting to tackle youth homelessness. Because of her, our hearts were opened.
I can’t recall exactly when I met Katherine. At some point, I started getting email invitations from her with a list of who’s who of Kamloops. She was hosting meetings to discuss youth homelessness and everyone from top business people, politicians of all levels, government ministry representatives, and non-profits were invited.
It seemed implausible to me that anyone, let alone a young person, could bring so many together. But as the emails continued, it soon became apparent that she was a force to be reckoned with it. People from across Kamloops came to her meetings. And then they set to work.
She accomplished what few others had done in uniting people in Kamloops to tackle youth homelessness.
When I finally met Katherine, I understood why.
Katherine has given Kamloops more than a non-profit that focuses on ending youth homelessness. She gave us a collective vision of who we are. Each of us, individually, may have wanted to do something about youth homelessness. Each of us, individually, may have wanted to make Kamloops a better place. But she gave us permission to open our hearts and step forward to help.
I can only think of myself, standing in the bitter wind for hours, doing a youth homelessness survey a few years back. I, along with scores of others inspired by Katherine, readily agreed to the mid-winter task. After listening to her, it just seemed the right thing to do.
One time, a year or so ago, I dropped by the A Way Home offices to make a modest donation. Katherine’s warm thanks for my small gift buoyed me along for days after. I knew that many individuals, businesses and government agencies had given donations orders of magnitude more, and yet her thanks was as genuine and heartfelt to me as for any donation.
For the last three years or so, I have been on an A Way Home committee. Once a month, our group would meet and strategize. As we settled down to sort out one problem or other, Katherine would burst into the room with warmth and caring. She listened to our ideas, gave us feedback, and inspired us to continue on. For every youth that was being helped, there were positive words. For every bureaucrat that provided a road block, she had graceful patience.
This summer, a labourer worked on my house renovations. He readily told me he had been helped by A Way Home. He was bright, enthusiastic and hard working. What a gift that he was given the opportunity to make a better future for himself.
I’m just one of hundreds in Kamloops who were inspired by Katherine. Whatever loss I feel is being felt again and again by many others.
It is so terrible to lose a bright young person. It so hard to imagine the sorrow of her many friends, family and colleagues. Deep condolences to them on their loss.
Katherine McParland has left us all the better, but it is with profound sorrow that we bid her adieu.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.