How is life in a small town?

Is it possible to experience true community, or is that a reality found only in fiction or TV shows? We invite you to discover Creston, British Columbia, population 5,500, a small western Canadian town as seen through the eyes of two of its residents

Doug and Sharon Deyotte with her children and grandchildren. Photo courtesy of the Deyotta family

6 min read
Maureen Boyd

Creston Valley is situated just 6 miles north of the U.S. border and at the south end of Kootenay Lake, nestled between the majestic Selkirk and Purcell Mountains. The valley is a unique fertile agricultural region and home to many beautiful fruit orchards and wineries.

Helen Collins is a secretary at Holy Cross Parish and a member of the Creston Ministerial Association. In 2007, searching for a “simple life,” Helen and her husband Peter, along with their four children then aged 8 to 13, packed up and moved to their dream home.

“We bought 10 acres on the outskirts of Creston in a community called Canyon. We named the little farm Thousand Dreams, which is what it is. We grow all our own beef, lamb, eggs and vegetables, and we buy locally raised chicken for our chicken meat. My husband is a carpenter and has so much work to do that he only advertises through word-of-mouth.”

Helen and Peter had discovered immediately that in a small community, people will go out of their way to support local, and in this way encourage a person trying to make a go of their chosen occupation.

A dream and an obligation

Helen shared that people really look out for one another in Creston. All the churches and ministers in the town are very connected, and as a ministerial association, they help many people in the community. In turn the whole community supports the ministerial association. Helen considers it a very close-knit family.

“We all know that we can lean on each other when a hand is needed. We are all there for each other, always!”

The local soup kitchen, too, has brought great unity among all the churches and the community. Helen noted that people who are not necessarily religious or churchgoers notice the good that is happening as the churches work together to serve the community, which in turn is building strong community relationships.

“Residents see the love that is being spread around, and they want to be a part of it.”

Helen next told us a recent experience concerning her husband. “Peter was doing a few jobs in Mountain Shores, a little community on the lake about an hour from here. One job is to rebuild a deck for a sweet elderly lady. When speaking to a few of the other residents up there, he finds out that this sweet lady is 100 years old... and that everyone who lives in that community knows her and looks after her.”

Peter then told his two helpers that they had better make sure they do a good job and take care of her, because the whole community will have eyes on them! Helen found it amazing that this lady lives there on her own at 100 years old—far from everything, not even a nearby store, but that she is quite happy and content.

“Why? Because she has a whole big family there who looks after her!”

A future for the next generations?

Young people are almost forced to leave home after high school to seek further educational and career opportunities. When they move to a bigger city, however, some of them really struggle to make friends. Some find people in the cities “unfriendly” because they are used to the unity and closeness of the small town.

But Helen added that “it is still a good experience for them to leave home. It gives them an opportunity to learn about other places, which is also good.”

She said that some leave their small town and find that they prefer city life, but others will leave Creston only for a few years and then return to the warmth of the community and the healthy lifestyle, which they desire for their own families.

Helen and Peter’s four children have all grown up and moved away, yet they all love returning home for visits throughout the year. They all make sure they are home together at Christmastime. Two of the four keep saying that one day, when they decide to settle down, they definitely want to live in a small town again.

Most people in Creston truly appreciate nature and respect it. Many are very much into hiking, biking, paddling, snowshoeing etc. This keeps residents active, gets them outdoors and creates a healthy lifestyle.

“Being out in nature really makes us appreciate the beautiful earth that God has given us!”

A sense of helping one another

Sharon Deyotte is a retired business owner—now her job is being a nana to three grandchildren, two of whom live here in Creston. They were the reason she and her husband moved to this town five years ago.

“We are very blessed to have our grandchildren and grown children so close by!” she says. “We’re so happy to be part of their daily lives!” 

They previously lived in a mill town that was not much larger than Creston, but a lot different in community culture. “Creston being an agricultural-based community just has that sense of people helping one another, which we find very refreshing and fits in with our way of thinking and our beliefs.”

Sharon volunteers at a seniors’ program called TAPS, which provides food and socializing for the elderly and disabled. “It’s a wonderful thing to bring some light and smiles to the faces and hearts of these folks!” And when she sees the same individuals in the grocery store, it is natural to say hello and chat with them.

Sharon’s husband Doug is a recent kidney transplant recipient. “This miracle from God has inspired us to share our story to encourage people to sign up for organ donations. We are forever indebted to the donor and their family.”

After returning from the “big city” for Doug’s transplant, they were very grateful to wake up every day in this beautiful valley. “There is less stress in a small town!”

Working the soil, caring for the community

Sharon has two gardens and enjoys the fresh produce, but also preserves some for the winter. She savors the tranquility of “working the soil and growing flowers to share with my granddaughter, who makes bouquets and sells them at the end of her road. She donates a dollar to the food banks from every bouquet sold.”

The cliché that everyone looks out for each other proves true: Sharon shared that one evening her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren came over for dinner. As they drove up, they noticed an ambulance around the corner at the neighbors’ house. Sharon and her family immediately said a prayer for both neighbors, without knowing what may or may not have happened. When they found out that their neighbors had been attended to, it was immediately natural to offer any future help that may be needed. They later found out that the wife had suffered a mild stroke.

On another occasion, a young couple from the city moved across the road from Sharon’s home. They were brand new to rural living and commented about the different mindset in a rural area. Sharon agreed with them.

In Creston, and perhaps in other small towns, there is an obligation and desire to welcome new people to the neighborhood, making them feel appreciated and cared for. But that comes along with the fact that the community wants to get to know them. The newcomers quickly realize that members of the community sincerely want to get to know them and relationships soon blossom. When Helen and Sharon first moved to Creston, they experienced the outpouring of support and since then have welcomed countless new residents to their community.

Join the conversation. Send your thoughts to the editor Jon Sweeney.