By Glenna Turnbull

This article is from the October 2018 Issue of Forever Young

oct 2018 Liz Jarvos

For some, the smiling face of Liz Jarvos is synonymous with the flight attendant who tended to passengers at 20,000 feet or higher for 26 years; for others, Liz’s smile belongs to the woman who puts on one of the most buzzed about fundraising sales of the year; but for several of the orphans with cerebral palsy in a Podanur orphanage in the South India, that smiling face belongs to the kind woman whose hand feeds them their meals whenever she’s in town.

“It started over 40 years ago,” recalls Liz when asked about her volunteer work, as I catch up with the septuagenarian during her brief stopover in Kelowna between purchasing trips to Kathmandu, Nepal and China.

After a friend adopted two children from one of the Families For Children (FFC) orphanages back in the 70s, they both joined a group that held fundraisers in Vancouver (where she was flying out of at the time), to help support this non-profit, non-sectarian organization. Even after Liz moved to the Okanagan in 1990, she continued to drive a cargo van back and forth over the Coquihalla with what she could collect or make for their annual FFC fundraising events in Vancouver.

“After about seven years, I decided to get off my lazy butt and organize an annual sale here,” she recalls. (Note: anyone who has witnessed Liz’s energy and drive to travel around the world obtaining items to donate for these sales would be quick to argue she could never be labeled as lazy!)

Using the travel passes she still receives from her 25+ years working in the airline industry, Liz is able to jet around the world collecting things that range from silver jewellery made with semi precious stones in Nepal to pearls and scarves from China along with raw silk shirts and other ware from the women’s coops set up by the FFC orphanages to help women earn fair wages. She then donates all the items to be sold in support of the cause.

“The first year I held the sale here in Kelowna, I held it in my home,” Liz recalls, “and we raised $1200.”

Once word of mouth began to spread about the high quality items she was selling at her fundraisers, popularity of the little sale swelled and before long, she had such a line up out her front door of people waiting to get in that she realized she needed a bigger venue.

“I sang with the Sweet Adeline’s and one of the girls in the group was waitressing at Mekong Restaurant,” remembers Liz, “and they let me set the sale up in their upstairs banquet room.”

After the Mekong changed ownership, she moved the sale to the Okanagan Mission Activity Centre at Sarson’s beach but the exponential growth rate of popularity for the little sale soon had that bursting at the seams too so this year she’s moved annual Kelowna event to the Parkinson Recreation Centre.

Not only have the sales grown in size but more significantly for FFC, in the amount of funds generated. Liz’s event that started off earning $1200 of donations for the FFC is now generating well over $10,000 a year during the four hour shopping frenzy.

In addition to the Kelowna annual sale, Liz notes, “About nine years ago I started doing a sale in Victoria as well as Kelowna and that one now generates about $8500 in one day.”

And because good things tend to come in threes, Liz started up a third annual sale in her new hometown of Collingwood, ON, earning an additional $2200 for FFC in its first year. “I know next year will be bigger because I talk a lot,” she laughs.

Although she’s still able to zip around the world without too much repercussion, Liz realizes she can’t keep going at this pace forever and notes, “I’m only doing it one more year after this because I’ll be turning 80 in three more years and I don’t want to be a little old white haired lady driving the ‘Coq’ (Coquihalla Connector) in my rental cargo van with all my stuff,” she says, adding, “I had a rough time last year and hit a big storm that scared me. I’m thinking I need to slow down a bit.”

In addition to the highly coveted jewellery, silks, scarves and cashmere wares, you’ll also find everything from yoga mat carry bags and computer cases to passport purses and pencil cases, all sewn by women who are part of the coops that are located on the orphanages’ properties and managed by a former orphan from the home.

At present, there are approximately 100 children being cared for in FFC’s Bangladesh orphanage and over 300 in the one located in India. Food, clothing, shelter, medical and educational needs are the majority of the costs as FFC has very little overhead. Most of the onsite staff came to FFC as destitute mothers with no place to go and the others locals who use their wages to support large extended families. All staff are paid a fair local rate for their work.

The Annual FFC Kelowna fundraising sale takes place Sunday, October 21 at the Parkinson Rec Centre from 10AM to 2PM. As they are unable to take credit or debit cards, cash or cheques are required for payment.

For more information on FFC, you can visit their website at www.familiesforchildren.ca.

And if you’re at the sale and want to find Liz, just look for one of her many smiles.