Over 30 years of community work on Gabriola Island has netted Susan Yates a 2015 Islands Trust Community Stewardship Award.
Yates’s contributions are numerous and notable. Twenty-five years ago she was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Gabriola Island recycling depot. She is also involved with the Gabriola community bus system and literacy promotion, reading to students at Gabriola Elementary School.
Yates said the award for contributions to literary arts and environmental stewardship was unexpected.
“Actually, I was surprised to get it because I think all of the environmental stewardship I do is kind of low key … but you know what? This community is so amazing in its support for individuals and so I feel like everything I’ve done here has just seemed like a natural progression of a way to contribute to my community,” Yates said.
The recycling depot has grown and children comment on how they love when she reads to them, but Yates is most proud of the community bus system, GERTIE, which began operating in June 2013 and also received a 2015 stewardship award.
The idea blossomed out of the Island Futures Society, a non-profit on Gabriola, following a transportation survey. She said she is only one of a group of “incredibly creative and resourceful people.” The service is beneficial, she said.
The bus has seen more than 24,500 riders since its inception and sees more runs in the summer to account for visitors.
“I sometimes look back and think, ‘I can’t quite believe we’ve pulled this off,’ to be quite honest with you,” said Yates. “It was huge … I was looking at a GERTIE schedule to see if I might be able to find my way from one pub to another on Saturday night using the GERTIE bus and indeed I can go from one end of the island to the other, which is a wonderful thing.”
In terms of reading at the school, Yates said she derives satisfaction from that as well. She has a huge personal collection of children’s books, which she uses.
“I often read stories, books, poems that relate to environmental stewardship. I purposely do that and I really like to focus on events like Earth Day, for example,” said Yates. “I try to get environmental messages in as subtly and as frequently as I can.”