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Memorial bench for overdose victims gets funding from Penticton, B.C. council

Penticton resident Gord Portman sits at Marina Way Park while holding a picture of a city bench. Portman has launched a grassroots campaign and hopes to collect donations for a memorial remembering those who have lost their lives to opioid addiction. Mark Brett / Submitted

In a short period of time, Penticton, B.C., resident Gord Portman has reached his $10,000 fundraising goal for an overdose memorial bench.

Portman pitched the idea in June. It would be a way for people to remember those who have lost their lives to an overdose.

Penticton City council voted unanimously to cover the installation of the bench, around $2,500.

Portman and James Miller, Penticton City Councilor and friend, raised the remaining funds through a grassroots campaign.

Read more: Penticton, B.C. organizations mark six years since overdose public health declaration

“I raised $8,030 I believe, and we will put some money towards landscaping with that,” said Portman.

“It was quite shocking – people are still getting a hold of me to give me donations. I didn’t think everybody would be this excited about it, but so many are.”

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Portman is set to meet with Penticton city planners this week to discuss the logistics of the bench.

“I’m hoping the reveal will be on August 31 for Overdose Awareness Day. Hopefully, we get it done by August, if not September.”

For several years Portman battled addiction. He has lost 104 friends to overdoses. Since getting sober, two years ago Portman thought the city needed a place for everyone to grieve those who have lost their lives to the ongoing illicit drug crisis.

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Memorial bench for overdose victims pitched for Penticton – Jun 7, 2022

While actively addicted, Portman says he used to visit a particular spot at Mariana Way Park overlooking Okanagan Lake, the same spot where he has pitched for the bench.

There will be a ceremony when the bench is installed. The date will be announced when building plans are finalized.

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“I want to just thank the community for the overwhelming amount of support, it means a lot,” Portman said.

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