Annual Giving Campaign 2017-18

Bill's Story

This is our Annual Giving Campaign for 2017. We hope you will help contribute to Providence Farm's on-going therapeutic community and the peace it bring to so many of the Cowichan Valley's most vulnerable people. We thank all our supporters past present and future for keeping our farm and services viable. Please watch Bill's video and read his story. 

Please send us your story to let Bill know where you were and how you felt the day John Lennon died. In this way, we hope to inspire empathy with Bill, a better understanding of his mental illness, and indeed with all our participants at the Farm.

At some level it is all our story. 

There is a space for your story on the donation form.

Bill Baker is a familiar sight in the Cowichan Valley. Whether driving a tractor, guiding walking tours of Providence Farm, or selling our organic produce at the Farmers Market in Duncan (which he did for 24 years straight without a break), he’s is hard to miss in his red cap, cracking a wizened smile. What’s not so obvious, however, is that Bill suffers from mental illness.

He started working at the Farm in the 1980s, hence he’s seen a thing or two and knows what we get up to around here. “The horticulture therapy is one thing,” he says, “but what we really need to grasp is therapy with social enterprise.” Indeed, lately it’s been a challenge trying to combine not-for-profit therapy with for-profit cultivation, especially after the excessively cold winter and wet spring we had this year. 

Our compost, however, has thrived. That’s Bill’s department. He started composting at Providence Farm in 1995. “Where the labyrinth is now is where I had my original compost pile,” he says. “And if you can believe it, I used to get my dump truck in there, in the sloppy muck, and dump the manure, once a week, every week.”

Bill is a Master Composter, one of only two in the Valley. Sporting a t-shirt with “Captain Compost” emblazoned across its chest, he works around the Farm, preparing compost for our farmer, programs and allotment gardeners. 

When he first came to Providence Farm, 33 years ago, Bill was in a revolving door syndrome with mental illness: getting better for a while, and then relapsing. “I was blessed to be allowed to come here,” he says.

So what happened in his life that led to his illness? “I joined the peace movement,” he says. “In those days it was all about No Nukes. I took it pretty personally because I was a pacifist. December 1980, I was about to fly home to be with my family for Christmas. I was working in Fort McMurray at the time, because that’s where the money was. I came home from work and was about to catch my flight to Vancouver when I heard that John Lennon had been shot. Well, if anybody remembers, John Lennon was the peace movement. He was our mentor. So that was pretty much the trigger.” On Christmas Day 1980, Bill was diagnosed schizophrenic.

Love and trust are in abundance at Providence Farm, an inclusive community dedicated to healing those in the Cowichan Valley who, like Bill, struggle with mental health challenges. But the Farm also needs some peace of mind this holiday season. To continue to do the good work that we do through our therapeutic day programs, which has won us a special place in the hearts of our community, we rely on donations. Our work cannot endure without your support.

Please give generously to our Annual Giving Campaign, so we can continue to help people like Bill Baker. Providence Farm is a sanctuary for mental health in the Cowichan Valley. Your gift to the Farm will allow us to continue to heal the disadvantaged in our community and give them - indeed, all of us at the Farm - peace of mind this Christmas. “Core funding, baby!” says Bill.

Thank you for your consideration.

"On Dec, 8, 1980 while on my way home from school in Calgary I heard that John Lennon was shot. I felt remorse in that it was a senseless killing." -- Mike

"Merry Christmas Bill: I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that John Lennon had died. I was in my apartment listening to the radio when they broke into the music with the news. I was shaocked, devastated and saddened. Here was a man who lived his life promoting peace and he died so violently. I wish you peace Bill..." -- Therese Samson

"On a flight returning from a cataract meeting in LA." -- Dr. David Wakelin

"I was working at night at a bakery in Hinton Alberta" - Nick Verstig

"Hi Bill: I was in a hotel restaurant in Seattle when we heard the news of John Lennon's death. It  somehow was harder to hear being away from home (supposedly on a holiday) in the U.S. to boot. My boyfriend and I were big fans of the Beatles, growing up with them, so we were stunned by the news! I felt homesick, vulnerable and a little lost, as if part of my own history had been assaulted, and my friend was similarly upset. I still remember the waitress telling us with shock in her voice!" -- Alison

"Bill: I want to thank you for once again showing your love and appreciation for Providence Farm by telling your story so openly. You are still someone who feels intensely and tries to make a difference. Where was I in 1980? - preparing to celebrate our first Christmas at Providence Farm - three Sisters of St. Ann and the Jakabowski family. I too wanted to give my life to make a difference - I became a Sister of St. Ann - teacher - administrator, social worker where the nucleus of Providence Farm began - we were the new pioneers of Providence land. I was never a Beatles fan -- too old--, but I shared a passion!" -- Frieda SSA. 

"Hi Bill, I just want to share an idea with you. The Spirit of John Lennon is alive and well. He is with you every time you hear his music. Every time you think about John, his spirit is visiting with you and enjoying your company. Many loves and hugs to you."

"I can not specifically recall where I was when john Lennon died. I can recall however how sad and shocked I was that someone would be so inclined to take away the life of someone who really promoted peace! I love the words of the song "Imagine" and feel that Lennon would have gone on to continue a promotion of world peace and understanding."

Bill Baker

 Stories for Bill

The following are stories submitted from folks affected by John Lennon's tragic death.

On December 8, 1980 I was living in Sidney BC and had just gone to the Star Weekly, the local convenience store downtown, and the guy behind the counter told me John Lennon was shot. I was stunned and tried to find the info on the radio in my car, but couldn't find anything and didn't believe it. But it was true. My world was rocked and from that moment I knew the world had taken a dark turn. It hurt.  Trauma comes in many forms and can hit each of us differently. This tragedy certainly hit Bill in a fundamental way and whether or not that impact lead to my life in charities I don't know, but I hope for peace in our world as much today as I ever have.  

I do know that peace is more than the absence of violence. Peace is harmonious community, compassion in action and caring for each other. It is the model of Providence Farm, it is what we practice and what works. Love is all you need, along with a few good vegetables. 

I hope your Christmas is filled with community and we wish you a beautiful peaceful future.

Please send us your words on where you were when this happened and we'll post them here too.

Chris Holt, Executive Director

" It was the third day I had been back to work since my Father's death. I was 22, he had been 53. Three weeks earlier I had been at my desk in a local radio station doing a job I adored when my sister called to say Dad had collapsed. My boss drove me home to collect some clothes and then to the railway station. I went home, my world collapsed, the processes were done and I was back at my desk trying to pretend I was coping. The station played John Lennon all day, interspersed with sad testimony. At 3.30 I went to the photocopier room and lay down sobbing on the floor. I’ll never forget that day, it was the day I realised it was not necessarily all going to all be okay." ---Sally Hay

"When John Lennon died I was just 17 years old, living with my boyfriend in Calgary, pretending to be an adult. I remember thinking, "Why would anyone want to kill such a kind and gentle soul?" My favorite song is, ""imagine". Imagine all the people living in peace. It's a lovely thought, especially at this time of year!. Peace." --- Maria

"I was a newlywed, living on a farm in Saanich. John and the Beatles were (and are) my favorite rock and rollers of all time. I was shocked, dismayed and saddened. Every year at this time, I sing, with family and friends "A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Let's hope it's a good one without any fear" --Annette MacGregor

"I always enjoy seeing Bill at the farm, when I come to visit and have lunch. It's always a pleasure! to see his smiling face.I don't know where I was or what I was doing away back then, but it's always sad to know of someone dying." --Norma Barkly

"Yes, I remember clearly when I heard the news of John Lennon's death. At first I thought I had not heard the news correctly, when it was continued again I said, "Why?" He showed us a path to Peace. With the beautiful words in song. I met and saw 'The Beatles' a number of times in England, I was born in England and 'The Beatles' performed at the university I attended. John was my favourite, he was an incredible individual and one I will never forget. ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. -- Margot Wood

"I really don't remember where I was when Lennon died, the important message is,I wish you peace and also a wish for peace to all." -- Roman Kierzek

"I was 28, living in Sedona, Arizona, teaching. I remember when we heard the news, many of us teachers started to cry. It felt like a light in the world had been extinguished. John was always my favorite Beatle; a true genius." -- Whitney Laughlin

"Dear Bill: I was at home preparing for Christmas 1980! I was deeply saddened and felt we all had lost a great "Peace" ambassador & our youth. I still miss him." -- Paul Douville

"I was at home with my 4, 3 and 1.5 year old children. It was indeed a shock because I was in my late teens and at University during the famous "Beatles" era. I still have a couple of the original LPs. After the news - I lit a candle and said a prayer for him and his family. I played my records, sand songs and had a few tears!" -- Maria

"Dear Bill: Yes today we celebrate John Lennon who was taken from us all so tragically. His belief and profound presence for peace will live on forever in our hearts. Sending you warm wishes for a merry and bright Christmas. So hold onto your meaningful memories Bill. I think of you fondly the many times our paths met at the Chemainus Wednesday market over the years. Peaceful Love." -- Diane Hopkins

"I can't remember where I was, but I remember being devastated and feeling what a tragic waste of a human being that wanted so much good for the world." -- Lena Hain

"I was working as a mechanic's helper at my dad's shop when I heard John Lennon died. I had just turned 15." -- Grant McKinnon

"I was in Vancouver when John Lennon was killed, it was such a terrible shock, such a great man." -- Ken

"Bill: I was in Wells, BC that fateful day. We were working on a Bruce Dern Hollywood film with Gordon Lightfoot and busy restoring my Roadside Attraction, 'The Ginger Jar' which opened to great fanfare two years later. We (Ulla and I) just had our 1st daughter Erin with us, 6 months old. A tragic day. All the best for 2018" --  Jerryl Cawlson

"Bill and Carmen: Happy Christmas and way to strut your stuff!!! When John was shot, I was on my way to a party -  we thought"fake news?" then there was a wake :(. I miss John, but fortunately spring is always just around the corner." -- Pat Barber

Dear Bill. : I loved your writing and I too love John Lennon. I was saddened by his violent death - just as I am saddened by the rash of violent shootings here in the States. I have come to believe PEACE is not an outer movement but an inner choice. A deliberate act of intention by each individual in each moment, breath, encounter and thought in a human day. it is difficult to hold and it is a practice. Peace be with you Bill. I will never forget your kindness when you helped me with wood for the caretaker's cabin at CTRA. Blessings & Light. -- Heather

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