The Honour Ranch near Ashcroft now has an assortment of books for guests to use while they’re there, thanks to the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library (TNRL) and the Ashcroft Library.
The ranch — located off Highway 97C 12 km southeast of Ashcroft — is operated by the Honour House Society, which established Honour House in New Westminster in 2010. The House has provided more than 10,000 nights of free accommodation for uniformed personnel and their families while they receive medical care in the Lower Mainland.
The ranch sits on 120 secluded acres, and was envisioned as a place that would provide a peaceful space, facilities, and support for members of the armed forces, police officers, firefighters, ambulance paramedics, and other first responders to learn healthy strategies to cope with operational stress injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It opened in October 2019, but was unable to welcome guests in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Society members and volunteers used the time to do the work necessary to make the site operational throughout the year, such as digging up waterlines and reburying them six feet deep so they won’t freeze in winter, and winterizing the cabins on site.
Because the ranch is to be a place of peace and tranquility, the 10 cabins (with 10 more planned for this year) do not have TV or internet. In fall 2020, Thompson-Nicola Regional District director Barbara Roden asked Hon. Col. Al De Genova, Honour House Society founder and president, if a small permanent library of books at the site might be useful for guests.
When he said yes, she approached the TNRL to see if they could help out, knowing that libraries regularly go through their collections and remove books that are no longer required.
“Libraries are like gardens; they need regular weeding,” says Melissa Lowenberg, manager of community libraries for the TNRL. “We get new books every week.”
An initial thought was to draw books from the bestselling fiction titles that have an abundance of copies that are no longer in high demand, but she notes that many of them deal with murder, death, violence, and other dark subjects, so were not suitable as they might prove triggering.
Instead, she turned to Porter at the Ashcroft branch. Every year the library has a sale of books that are no longer required, and Porter assembled a large and varied collection: everything from books on local history and wildlife to cowboy poetry and memoirs to “how to” volumes on subjects such as drawing and gardening.
“We were looking for anything that might be of interest but that people might not have had a chance to pursue in their daily life,” says Lowenberg. “Maybe while they’re at Honour Ranch they’ll have time to pick it up.”
She says the TNRL will wait and see if the ranch needs more books, adding that there is more than one way the library can help. “Maybe there’s something else we can supply, or they can use the meeting room [at the Ashcroft branch]. Or if a family comes up then the library can be a destination for them.”
De Genova says that it is “superb” to get the books, which will be housed in the main lodge on their own custom-built bookshelf. He notes that the books about gardening will help when they start to plan and build a community garden at the site, but says that all the contributions will be used.
“They’ve put some time into selecting them. We’ve talked about having books from the very beginning. People will be able to get away with a book, sit outside and have some down time to reflect and know that there’s hope. The books we’ve received will make all the difference in the world.”