The tiny Sikh community in British Columbia has sold its temple and given the $164,000 they made from the sale to local charities.
Narinder Singh Heer, president of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sikh Temple in Clearwater, said the community had shrunk to five families and did not need the space.
Until about 15 years ago, the community had 55 families, he said, adding that the temple opened its doors in 1985.
But Mr. Heer said the community dispersed because of job losses in the lumber industry and the younger generation moving out of town to live in bigger cities.
“In the last 10 years we have only five members and we’re doing only a monthly congregation,” Mr. Heer said. “We talked about it. Five members can’t keep the gurudwara going.”
The building, which can hold up to 400 people, was bought by locals for $180,000, he said.
The community donated another $4,000 it had in savings.
They gave $10,000 each to two temples in Kamloops and the rest to 19 local charities.
“The money belongs to Clearwater,” Mr. Heer said of the local donations. “We’ve been living here since 1950s and 1960s."
Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell said the temple members’ donations will help a number of organizations, such as the local ski hill, the skating club and the food bank.
“It’s fantastic. It touches so many clubs in our community and so many volunteers have been struggling for so long,” he said.
The mayor said he knew about the donations about a month ago, but kept it a secret.
“We actually brought about 20 or 30 representatives from these groups into a room and told them nothing about why they were there,” he said.
“We introduced Mr. Heer and put them up at the podium and started handing out cheques and the room just came apart. It was so emotional and grown men were shedding tears. It was amazing.”
Mr. Blackwell said he’s disappointed to see the Sikh community in Clearwater shrinking.
“The minute the Sikh community wants to come back to Clearwater, I’ll give the first thousand dollars to start the new temple,” he said.