Gord Portman’s dream of having a place in Penticton where people can honour and remember those who have lost their lives to overdose is well on its way to becoming a reality.
Portman, who experienced addiction and homelessness for several years, launched fundraising efforts last June for the installation of a Memorial Bench.
Donations from as far away as Kelowna would soon pour in, with $8,400 raised within two weeks in support of the project.
Portman’s grassroots project has raised a total of $10,000 to date and on Aug. 31, in collaboration with city crews, Penticton’s very own Memorial Bench will be unveiled at Marina Way Park.
“I was overwhelmed by the community coming together for this, whether it was $10, $20, and even $500,” Portman, who also saved two lives in a 2020 Penticton house fire, said by the site of the bench. “The donations came in so quickly. It was a really good feeling.”
The bench will be located between the marina by Okanagan Lake and Penticton Art Gallery.
Ysabel Contreras, the parks planning and capital projects coordinating at the city, stressed the importance of the project and the awareness it will bring to the province-wide opioid crisis that was declared in April 2016.
“This isn’t going to be a standard bench,” Contreras said. “This is going to raise awareness.”
In consultation with Portman, the city will be handling the design and construction of the bench. All the necessary funds have been raised for the project to go ahead.
“We’ve been reaching out to Gord to make sure that this is the message that he wants to portray.”
Portman says the bench will feature a plaque that shares a message about the opioid crisis, with references to the number of people that lost their lives to overdose across the province and within Penticton.
The local hero knows 117 people, including his best friend, who are victims of the opioid crisis.
“It’s just getting worse and worse,” Portman said.
Later in 2023, Portman will be celebrating being clean for three years.
When he made his pitch to the city in June, council quickly threw its support behind the project with a $3,000 donation.