One of Canada's youngest benevolent societies is also one of the oldest, and it celebrates two milestones in Prince George.
It also welcomes a new president and it is a hometown coming-out for incoming national leader Jan Gammie.
The Canadian Royal Purple Society (CRPS) turns five years old this weekend at their annual general meeting. If that name sounds too familiar for such a new group, that is because they reinvented themselves after 100 years of prior philanthropy.
In 1914 the Royal Purple was the female auxiliary to the all-male Elks Club of Canada, complete with their own uniform and nearly religious adherence to rituals and formal rites of operation. When the public no longer accepted gender divisions in their community institutions, and developed an aversion to ceremonial protocols, a choice had to be made by the Royal Purple. Starting today, Prince George is the site for the result of that decision. In 2014 the CRPS was born, when the old organization opted to turn themselves into an independent, all-genders, all-ages (membership starts at 14 years old), all-inclusive new charitable organization. Each chapter still enjoys a cordial relationship with the Elks Club, they still use purple as a theme colour, but they are free to raise money or volunteer hours for whichever causes matter most to their local membership.
That flexibility and sky-is-the-limit philosophy is what attracted Gammie into the organization.
"I joined Royal Purple in 2009, and in 2010 I was chosen to be on the finance committee and it sort of snowballed from there," Gammie said. "I took an interest in the inner workings of Royal Purple. I was very impressed with the past presidents and what they had done and I wanted to try to do the same."
One of those will soon be Kelly Christman, the outgoing president who hands over the chair to Gammie at this weekend's AGM.
"I saw my role as bringing forward the information about the Canadian Royal Purple and how it is evolving. That's still a story that needs to be told," said Christman, who has 17 years of service with the Royal Purple. "We have a 100 year old foundation and for five years we have built a new version on top of that. We allowed ourselves to evolve and change. As volunteerism changes, so to must our organization. Volunteerism looks and feels a lot different than 100 years ago, so if we want to remain viable and keep attracting volunteers, we have to keep evolving how we do our business. This is not about us, it is about the communities. It is more important to serve communities than serve old rituals."
When the BC branch of the CRPS held its provincial AGM this past year in Williams Lake, Christman was in attendance, passing through Prince George in the process. She was awed by Aberdeen Glen Golf Course on that visit and looks forward to seeing it again, in amongst the official duties of this national set of meetings. She is driving here from her home in Bassano, Alberta in the rural middle between Calgary and Medicine Hat.
Christman's residential location is proof, said Gammie, that the CRPS really is an organization for all. She feels no trepidation about taking on the national presidency, with all of the travel amenities Prince George has to offer.
"I know travel is a part of the job, but Prince George is such a well connected place, with our airport and our highways going just about everywhere," Gammie said.
"I think my main goal as president is to be a voice, not an echo. Lets get Royal Purple's voice out into the public. Let's let people knowing that we are here, we are modernized, and we are there to help the community - all communities. We are such a fun-loving, dynamic group of people that they'll want to join and become part of us. We do have lots of fun, and we do a lot of great work."
In addition to Bassano, past presidents of the CRPS have also come from Kamloops, Sault Ste. Marie, and Cut Knife, Saskatchewan. Now Prince George is added to that list. It was a coincidence that this city happened to win the bid to host the national AGM the same year Gammie was to be installed as president, so that adds a touch of nervousness, she said, but she is anxious to take on the job and spread the purple haze of charity and volunteerism across Canada.