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Cocooning pays dividends for local environmental group

While most across B.C. were cocooned in their homes during the COVID shut downs, a few hundred local people took time to feed and nurture caterpillars as they metamorphosed in butterflies. And, in doing so, they also helped raise some needed money for a Maple Ridge environmental group.

A relatively new butterfly adoption program, hosted by the Alouette River Management Society (ARMS), translated to a big shot in the arm for the environmental stewardship organization that was forced – like many groups – to shut down operations early this spring as a direct result of the coronavirus.

Closing its centre and halting all its community-outreach programs – internally and those held out in the public – hit the bottom line for this organization pretty hard, according to executive director Greta Borick-Cunningham.

A large chunk of ARMS $150,000 annual operating budget typically comes from the spring education classes and camps. Shut downs meant a loss of at least $20,000 directly attributed to those programs alone, she explained.

Thankfully, Borick-Cunningham said, people’s love of butterflies has helped provide her group with a much needed infusion of cash. And she’s looking for a few other similar initiatives.

The butterfly adoption program, which started in 2019, was expanded this year. And thanks to the spread of word through social media it doubled last year’s participation of 100, and netted ARMS $6,100.

“Those additional funds were sort plowed back to make up some of the lost revenue from the spring education… It does make a big difference.”

All 200 of this year’s supporters had the chance to adopt a Painted Lady caterpillar larvae from ARMS, and due to the pandemic it was hand delivered to their front step.

The adoption program allowed folks – most of them children already self-isolating at home with their families – to watch and learn the lifecycle of a butterfly change right before their eyes.

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It is proving a popular and growing program, said Borick-Cunningham, who expects it will be repeated and expanded again next butterfly season – which usually last about six weeks between mid-April and the end of May.

The fundraising initiative is one part of their pollinating program, which also includes school visits, public beekeeping workshops, and participation in numerous community events hosted by other organizations.

This year, due to the virus, “that came to a grinding halt,” said Borick-Cunningham, who’s also missing the chance to get her organization and its education and advocacy efforts out in front of the community.

Nevertheless, she said she’s grateful for the extra money raised from the butterflies.

But she’s now casting about for other fundraising options for ARMS, given their new reality.

For instance, the group is looking at hosting a virtual salmon adoption this fall, or alternatively selling owl or chickadee houses in kit form that can be built at home as a family project.

“We have to be creative to help leverage the funds that we’ve lost,” she said, pointing to the annual June fundraising dinner as another example. That event usually sells out with about 100 people and brings in about $8,500. It had to be cancelled due to COVID-related restrictions on gatherings, but Borick-Cunningham said they’re considering hosting a virtual dinner this fall.

For more information about ARMS, people can visit their website.

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Roxanne Hooper

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Roxanne Hooper

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