Branch Spotlight: Okanagan Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association
While it’s true that ARTA serves a mostly Albertan membership, ARTA members can be found all over the country, and even all over the world. But for all the distant locations ARTA members find themselves, there is only one place outside of Alberta where
enough members have gathered to create their own branch: the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association (OKARTA) has been bringing Albertan retirees together since 2007, creating a home-away-from-home for their members. But how does such a far-flung branch even start?
Marilyn Resler has been OKARTA’s secretary since the branch formed and was one of its founding members. She remembers the early days of the branch well. “It was truly a result of the dedication of two people: Irl Miller and Ron Rhine,” Marilyn says. “They had this notion to start a branch, and since they both had been very involved in ARTA, they knew what it would take. There are Albertan retirees all over British Columbia, and I know there has been interest in starting branches elsewhere too, but it takes a strong leader who is dedicated to the idea to make it a reality.”
Irl and Ron dedicated themselves to getting in touch with as many local ARTA members as they could, eventually gathering a list of thirty-two retired teachers. Soon enough, they had enough support to become ARTA’s first out-of-province branch.
Since then, the branch has grown, but its sense of community has been maintained. “We only have one general meeting a year,” says Marilyn. “But the rest of the time, we plan a lot of social gatherings. We plan group walks through the most beautiful landscapes you could imagine, we take part in the ARTA Wellness Challenge as a branch, and we host annual get-togethers like Raspberry Fest and Chili Fest, where we gather to play games, share wonderful company, and eat great food.”
Newcomers are always welcomed at these events, as everyone at OKARTA remembers what it was like when they first arrived in the region, in a new place without many local friends or contacts. “That’s what makes OKARTA so special,” Marilyn says. “It’s a great coming-together of people from all over Alberta. We have a common background that we can use to build new friendships, and invariably, when new members come to our events, they always end up meeting someone from back home they might not have expected to run into.”
More information on OKARTA, including information on how to join, can be found on the branch website, https://artabranches.net/okarta.
Photo caption: OKARTA President Fred Resler, Angela Kanik, Helen Blower, Lynne Glata, Shirley Jorgensen & Marilyn Resler.