Cache Creek’s Deb Arnott is one of 15 British Columbians who will receive the B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship in 2023, for their dedication and selfless service to their communities.
The announcement was made on Dec. 5. The Medal of Good Citizenship was established in 2015, to acknowledge people’s remarkable service to public life. Cache Creek’s Clayton Cassidy received the award in 2016, and Ashcroft’s Esther Lang received it earlier this year.
Arnott, a longtime resident of the area, was with Community Futures for 30 years — most of them as manager of Community Futures Sun Country — before retiring earlier this year. She says that she only learned the news about the award two weeks before the announcement was made, and had to keep it quiet.
“I was shocked. I had no idea this was happening,” she says of receiving the phone call telling her the news.
“A woman called and said hi, introduced herself, blah blah blah, then said ‘Oh, just so you know, you were nominated [for the medal].
“I said ‘Pardon?’ and she said ‘You had no idea?’ and I said no, it was new to me. It had never occurred to me. I’m still kind of shocked, because it came out of nowhere.”
Arnott says that she was nominated by Troy Dungate, who is chair of Community Futures BC and the national CF board. Linsie Lachapelle, who took over as manager of Community Futures Sun Country when Arnott retired, says that she was not surprised by the news.
“It’s such a great honour for her, and so well-deserved. She has people first in her heart, and has always cared about businesses. It seems like there was one thing after another in this area, but she’s such a force and knows what she’s doing. She was in the position for a long time and has so much knowledge under her belt, so she was the right one to lead the show.
“She did a great job. She loves the people and the businesses here, and she’s always had their best interests at heart. And it really helps when you’re from the area.”
Arnott’s tireless work on behalf of small businesses and communities that were impacted by the devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018, and the fire that destroyed the Village of Lytton in 2021, were cited in the official announcement, which notes that she did “whatever it took” to find the resources needed to help those communities.
“When Deb and her husband were being evacuated from their home during the Elephant Hill wildfire in 2017, she was on the phone, making sure that friends, neighbours, clients, and colleagues were safe and calling on government agencies for help. She recruited two of her colleagues and hit the road, driving to Vancouver to meet face-to-face with key stakeholders. Her passion and persistence resulted in more disaster relief for small businesses devastated by the wildfires.”
Arnott’s efforts on behalf of small business were not the only ones mentioned.
“This is just one of dozens of instances where Deb has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the communities in her region are well-served,” the announcement continued. “Deb has also stepped in to ensure the annual Christmas Parade through downtown Ashcroft went ahead after losing its longtime organizer. She volunteered to develop the McAbee Fossil Beds in collaboration with Bonaparte First Nation and Heritage B.C., as an Indigenous destination site after it was closed to the public. And when her town’s only medical clinic was in danger of closing, Deb rolled up her sleeves and took the lead in helping to refurbish the clinic and keep its doors open.”
Arnott, who grew up in Cache Creek, understands that many small rural communities lack the resources and services found in larger, more populated centres. In addition to managing the Community Futures Sun Country office for many years, she has also volunteered for several non-profit organizations and societies, including the Regional Literacy Group, Thompson Rivers University, Historic Hat Creek Ranch, the McAbee Fossil Beds, Thompson View Manor, and the Ashcroft and District Health Care Auxiliary. She also served as a member of the B.C. Rural Advisory Council, which provides input on government policies for rural communities.
In 2011, Arnott received the B.C. Achievement Community Award, which recognizes the contributions of extraordinary British Columbians who build better, stronger, more resilient communities and shine as examples of dedication and service.
“Deb immediately impresses with her energy, enthusiasm, and passion,” the announcement read. “She inspires others to do more to support rural communities and businesses. Her willingness to step in during difficult times and her unrelenting service to not only her community, but her region, province, and nation, makes her a recipient of this year’s B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship.”
B.C. Premier David Eby noted that it was an honour to award the 2023 recipients with the Medal of Good Citizenship. “Each one of them embodies the traits of generosity, kindness, and sacrifice for the benefit of others,” he said. “Their actions touch so many lives, creating better communities throughout B.C. I commend each one of them. They are an example to all.”
Arnott may be retired from Community Futures, but she is staying busy.
“I’m really pleased that I’m still going to be involved with businesses in Lytton, and can continue my work there, because lots need to be done,” she says. “And I’m back in the loop with Historic Hat Creek Ranch and the McAbee Fossil Beds.
“I’m the type of person who, if she sees a gap or something that needs doing, steps in and does it.”
The 15 recipients will be presented with medals at in-person ceremonies throughout the province in 2023.