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After selling its temple, a small B.C. Sikh community gave the funds back to its town

For years, an already small Sikh community in Clearwater, B.C., has seen its numbers shrink even smaller.

So when it came time to make the difficult decision to sell its temple, the congregation acted on one of the pillars of their faith: give back and help others. “The money belongs in Clearwater,” Narinder Singh Heer, president of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sikh Temple, said about giving the $164,000 made from the sale directly to local charities.

The gurdwara has been standing for nearly 50 years, and once boasted 55 families. But Heer said job losses in the local lumber industry and the migration of younger generations to larger cities have led to a steady decline. “We only had 10 families the last six years, then we dropped down to only five families now,” Heer said, adding the temple was forced to move to monthly services. “Five families can’t keep it going.”

While the decision to sell the temple was made reluctantly, Heer and the other leaders found themselves in a good position financially thanks to the property being completely paid off. The property ended up selling for a total of $180,000. The congregation gave $10,000 each to two temples in Kamloops and added another $4,000 from their savings to the remaining total.

That money was then split up across 19 local charities, including the seniors’ centre, the skating club and the food bank. A new bursary for the high school was also established. Mayor Merlin Blackwell said he’s sad the Sikh community is shrinking, but also full of gratitude for the gift they’ve given their town.

“There’s been an absolute outpouring of pure love for these people,” Blackwell said while fighting back tears. “These people that you broke bread with, and did things with, you know it’s so much joy, so much pure joy without strings attached,” he added. “It’s just absolutely amazing.”

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