For Immediate Release
April 19, 2022


Perched on pilings at the town’s waterfront, the Alert Bay Drug Store is an integral part of the ferry-dependent community. Melissa Fletcher, who owns the store with her husband, understands the importance of providing reliable service. That’s why volunteering for BC Ferries’ Tri-Island Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) is a natural fit.

“Everyone has to give back in some way. I use the ferry a lot and want to make sure it stays accessible to everyone and everyone is updated,” says Fletcher.

Fletcher joined the Tri-Island Committee representing Alert Bay, Sointula and Port McNeill about ten years ago. She came into her role with a unique view of BC Ferries. Not only can she see the ferry from her store window, she uses the ferry several times a week to shuttle her daughters to activities or transport parcels to clients. “The volunteers who were on the FAC were ready to step back as they had been there a while and they asked if I would be interested,” says Fletcher. “Since we own a business on the island and I have the luxury of working around the kids’ activities, I had the time to devote to the FAC.”

Now, as FAC Chair, she is the go-to person for information that connects the communities. “I help keep the community updated with changes BC Ferries makes, but also pass along ideas and concerns the community may have,” she says. “This allows for better communication between everyone.”

April 24-28, 2022 is National Volunteer Week across Canada. The annual event seeks to recognize volunteers, like Fletcher and the other members of the Ferry Advisory Committee, and celebrate the positive impact of volunteerism in communities. This year’s theme ‘Empathy in Action’ celebrates the ways in which volunteers build awareness around the experiences of different community members and build capacity to work collectively towards common goals.

FAC Chairs and members work year-round to provide BC Ferries with advice and insight that helps inform day-to-day operations, terminal and vessel improvements, schedule changes, and other initiatives. There are no days off for an FAC Chair. They answer emails, phone calls, and questions from community members 24/7.

For BC Ferries part, they say the FACs are a vital connection to the communities they serve. “The community insight and understanding that our Ferry Advisory Committees provide us with is invaluable. We rely on them not only for community-centred advice, but also helping us get information out to the community, especially when changes are afoot,” says Brian Anderson, Vice President of Strategy & Community Engagement. “The Committees do a phenomenal job and we are grateful for their dedication and the long hours we know they put in to their work with us.”

One of the biggest changes to the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula route Fletcher has helped the community navigate came in 2020 when a new Island Class ferry entered service on the route. Fletcher was named co-sponsor of Island Aurora in recognition of her service to the FAC and her community. The role is important – the sponsor bestows the ship with good luck and protection for all those who travel on them.

Today, she still keeps an eye on ‘her’ ferry. “I know what time it’s supposed to be in,” she says, often looking out the window of her store to see when the ship is coming into dock. Fletcher regularly posts schedule information and BC Ferries news to a dedicated Facebook page about ferry service in the region.

When not serving her community by attending to FAC business, running the store or shuttling her daughters to activities, Fletcher and her family can be found enjoying the outdoors – camping, hiking, biking, or skiing. While she’s good at relaying information, she guards the locations of her family’s favourite trails and camping spots on the north island. “Favourite places? Those are secret!” she laughs, finally hinting that Alice Lake, Woss Lake are near the top of her family’s list, depending on weather, of course.

Fletcher encourages others to consider volunteering on the Ferry Advisory Committee. “By volunteering you learn to appreciate other people’s views and feelings on similar things,” she says, adding that for her, it’s been a positive and rewarding way to connect with people from the region as well as BC Ferries.

FAC Facts and Stats:
  • There are 13 Ferry Advisory Committees situated in communities up and down the coast of British Columbia.
  • Committees are generally made of up of 8-12 members who represent ferry dependent communities.
  • FAC members bring a wide variety of voices and perspectives to the table. A committee’s composition depends on the community, and often includes representatives such as: full-time and part-time residents, the tourism industry, commuters, seniors, businesses, commercial goods and service providers, and many more.
  • This past year, FAC members have helped with:
    • Understanding the complex use of ferry service in the Southern Gulf Islands
    • Developing new schedules for two-ship service for Gabriola Island and Quadra Island
    • Adjusting and communicating service and schedule changes during pandemic recovery
    • Providing early input on Terminal Development Plans

Melissa Fletcher, Tri-Island Ferry Advisory Committee Chair and Co-Sponsor of BC Ferries’ ship Island Discovery at Vessel Naming Ceremony in Victoria
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Media Contact:
BC Ferries, Media Relations
Victoria: (250) 978-1267

Customer Contact:
Victoria: (250) 410-1465
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)

Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our off-hours line at (250) 516-7211.
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