Langley friendship group bids adieu at the close of 2020

You’ve Gotta Have Friends has been around for 15 years, encouraging kindness and inclusion

Janice McTaggart will retire after serving 25 years as the director of outreach for the Langley Senior Resources Society. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Coronavirus has proven the fatal blow for a local non-profit group that spent years fostering friendship, inclusion and a sense of community.

You’ve Gotta Have Friends (YGHF) is closing down at the end of 2020, citing COVID as too much of a burden to overcome after funding cuts.

“Many of you will be aware that last year YGHF lost its long-term funding from the United Way of Lower Mainland,” explained Dan Collins, CEO of the Inclusion Langley Society. “This resulted in our need to reduce our capacity to be available to citizens. At that time, we changed drop-in frequency and reduced the hours that coordinators were available to facilitate gatherings, share information and stimulate new ways to assist people to connect with others in community.”

But there’s further funding reductions so the society has decided to shut down the initiative.

The Inclusion Langley Society started YGHF about 15 years ago to help people connect. Over the years YGHF has done that through various means such as its book club or supper club, art events, Boppin’ in the Park dance evenings, concerts, and more. The group had done random acts of kindness such as passing out free flowers to people downtown and created the Community Builder Awards which it gave out during fun banquets annually.

• READ MORE: ‘We felt this was an opportunity to raise people up and given some recognition’

“It was never our plan to create a dependency on YGHF, rather nurture a dependency and a reliance on others in community to help us feel alive, and this has been accomplished. We hope that your connections to others you have met in your journey with YGHF will be sustained,” Collins said.

He praised the coordinators, Janice McTaggart, Pat Weibelzahl and Penny Hembrook as well as the many volunteers, residents, businesses, community groups and organizations that have supported the group over the 15 years.

“We are confident that our shared wish to live in a welcoming community will endure and that we will all continue to experience a true sense of inclusion throughout Langley,” Collins said.

McTaggart said the group seems to have come to its natural end.

“I can’t express enough the gift that You’ve Gotta Have Friends has been to me,” she said. “I am sad to retire from it and yet am so grateful for the people I have met along the way and the relationships we have developed. We all feel as though we have made a difference in this community and I see the evidence all around me. Inclusion has become natural and kindness abounds. The pandemic has certainly emphasized that.”

She and Hembrook encouraged people to continue to reach out to make connections with others in the community.

“It would be so wonderful if some of our activities can continue. Anyone can create a Supper Club, Breakfast with Friends, Book Club or even Flower Power – just invite,” Hembrook said.

The plan is to bring back Boppin’ in the Park when pandemic restrictions are over.

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