Giving back is not new to Rick Thorpe and Yasmin John-Thorpe.
The high-profile Penticton couple have added Penticton Regional Hospital to their list of community support initiatives by donating $30,000 to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.
Born and raised in Trinidad, Yasmin recalled charitable gestures from her childhood years.
“My parents raised me on the principle of giving back,” she said. “I can remember my father bringing homeless people to our home, where they would be given a shower, clean clothes and a meal my mom had spent all day cooking. My siblings and I were given coins to gift to each person before they left.”
Rick also had a generous family background. Growing up in Southwestern Ontario, he was told by his mother to always help those who truly need help.
“She told me when I was 12 or 13 years old, ‘We help the needy not the greedy,’ and I have remembered that my whole life,” he said.
Rick and Yasmin met in Trinidad. They married in 1973, moving back to London, Ontario in 1975 with their first-born daughter, Richa, as Rick continued his career with the Labatt Brewing Company.
In 1977, the family was transferred to Israel where their second daughter, Ranette, was born. The Thorpes later moved back to Canada, residing again in London and various other cities in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Ontario.
Life changed in 1988 when Rick suffered a heart attack at age 42. In 1989 after recovering, Rick received a call from his long-time friend, Don Triggs (of Jackson-Triggs fame).
“Don was putting a small group together to buy the wine assets from John Labatt Company, as the Free Trade deal was coming to Canada,” Rick recalled.
In 1989 Rick arrived in Penticton where the Cartier Casabello winery was located and the rest of the family followed in August 1990. Rick went on to become a shareholder, director and vice-president of Cartier Wines (Vincor) until his retirement in 1994.
However, politics soon beckoned.
A group of friends convinced Rick to seek the B.C. Liberal nomination for the Penticton/Okanagan Valley riding. He won the nomination in May 1995 and in the 1996 provincial election, he was elected as MLA.
Following a boundary change, Rick opted to become the MLA for Okanagan-Westside, which included Summerland, leaving the Penticton area riding for his close friend, Bill Barisoff. After three terms in office, which included three cabinet positions, Rick retired from politics in 2009.
Meanwhile, Yasmin had joined four other creative writers to form Penticton Writers and Publishers.
“We had no idea how many other local writers were seeking guidance,” she said. “So we used the group to host monthly meetings, which continues today, assisting others to hone their creative talents.”
In 2006, the Thorpes established the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Scholarship Fund. To date, $125,000 has been awarded to local students attending Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan.