Move over wine fairies, here come the B.C. whisky wizards | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Move over wine fairies, here come the B.C. whisky wizards

B.C. Whiskey Wizards member Mike Summers, left, and creator Thomas Smith, right, stand in front of a pile of groceries that were distributed to families in need.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Thomas Smith
August 16, 2020 - 5:57 AM

The original aim of the B.C. Whiskey Wizards was to deliver deliveries of booze and treats to men stuck at home during the pandemic, but the group has now taken on a much bigger role of finding houses, jobs, and support for men in need.

Thomas Smith and Ron Tuck are the minds behind the group, and say the idea came from watching their wives take part in socially-distanced gift giving.

“It started in March during the pandemic. Tommy saw all of these people doing the wine ninjas or wine fairies, and there was nothing for guys. My wife was a member and Tommy’s wife was a member, and we kept looking and there was nothing for men. So Tommy decided to create one that was more male-oriented with the whiskey rather than the wine,” Tuck says.

Members could post their address and receive packages of snacks, beer or whiskey on their doorstep from an anonymous member.

The group quickly shifted and became a “brotherhood” of men supporting one another. Members would purchase groceries or pool their money to help pay the bills of men who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and the generosity only grew from there.

“It somehow expanded from there to men’s mental health. We’re helping men out men everywhere,” Smith says. “I needed something like this for myself, as do all of the other men out there. We're breaking the stigma of men not wanting to reach out... No guys want to talk about that to anyone else because they're scared of the judgement. I’m amazed now how many people reach out.”

Tuck says one of the members recently shared his struggle with job loss and imminent homelessness, which offered an opportunity for group members to step up.

“I found a brother that was down and out, not working and he was about to be living in his van. I found a room to rent through another member. They met yesterday and that’s going forward. Now that brother, through another brother, has a place to call home,” Tuck says.

The group has more than 4,000 members across the province and accepts men of any age, background or sexual identity. They’ve expanded not only to help men, but also raised money for charities such as the Canuck Place Children's Hospice.

Larry Douglas is a member from Kelowna and says the group has helped him by allowing him to create meaningful connections and give advice to younger men.

“I grew up with no friends and no family. I had a rough upbringing, I was in foster care… Now that I’ve been added to this, I see other guys posting about things I’ve been through, and to be able to share my input on it, that helps me,” Douglas says. “I was in and out of jail and now that I’m older, I’m 37, and I look back and say, I could’ve done this, I could’ve done that. Now that I can help other guys with my input, that helps me a lot.”

Not only does he share advice, Douglas works in construction and has helped to find jobs for some of the other members.

One of those men is Alex Smith, who lives in Lake Country. He secured a job with Douglas on an upcoming construction project, but initially joined the B.C. Whiskey Wizards just with the intent to help others.

“I just wanted to give back to people who were kind of in a rougher situation than I was myself... I had a little bit of money kicking around and I wanted to join so I could help people out,” Alex says. 

Hex was in the infantry with the Canadian Armed Forces for three years and says the group offered him a new kind of brotherhood.

“When I came back I suffered from PTSD. I had no brotherhood and no one to really talk to,” Alex says. “It doesn’t matter your problems, you can voice them (in the group) and there’s no judgement and people will lift you up, and that’s something I’ve been missing since the military.”

The group’s organizers plan to continue running Whiskey Wizards long after the pandemic is over, and will continue to offer a positive and inclusive space for all men over the age of 19.

Click here to check it out.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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