Penticton council contributes to memorial bench after touching presentation | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton council contributes to memorial bench after touching presentation

Gord Portman, along with his dog Zippy, sit 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 lost from opioid addiction.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Mark Brett

A campaign to commemorate victims of the opioid crisis with a new memorial bench got more than an approval when it was pitched to Penticton City Council Tuesday.

Gord Portman, who’s been sober for two years after spending 17 years on the streets in active addiction, is campaigning to build a bench on the shore of Okanagan Lake in memory of everyone lost to the opioid crisis in the South Okanagan. He said he personally knew more than 100 people who died of drug overdose.

Portman explained why he has a particular location in mind.

“I used to go to this spot when I was in my addiction,” he said while holding back tears. “There used to be nobody down there, and I would go down there, and I would dream about getting clean.”

READ MORE: ‘TERRIFIED’: The interrupted life and final days of Katherine McParland

Portman wasn’t asking for any money when he pitched the idea to council during the regular meeting yesterday. He just wanted their support. But Councillor Katie Robinson suggested the City of Penticton help pay for the bench.

Coun. Judy Sentes wanted council to support the bench as a show of empathy.

“It’s just a statement form us on behalf of everyone, the sorrow that we feel,” she said.

READ MORE: B.C. man suing doctor who got him addicted to opioids

Councillors unanimously voted to put $7,500 towards the project.

Coun. James Miller, who supported Portman’s campaign for the bench, recused himself from the vote.

The total price tag of the bench is around $10,000. Portman and Miller's fundraising campaign will continue to cover the rest of the cost.

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