Every summer, music lovers in Mission and Abbotsford gather in local parks to savour outdoor concerts, each other's company, and some exceptional musicians.
And they have Envision Financial to thank for the experience.
The credit union has been the main sponsor for the Twilight Concert Series in the beautiful Fraser River Heritage Park since 1990, the Coffee House Concert Series in Abbotsford since 2007 and its newest offshoot, the summer Concerts in the Park on the shore of Mill Lake.
The community investment is a natural expression of Envision's mandate to give back to its community and to be a part of it, said Susan Byrom, manager of corporate citizenship at Envision Financial.
"It's our opportunity to build a sense of community, to bring people out of isolation, to bring out seniors and families," said Byrom. "It's also important to support local small businesses like the coffeehouses."
The concerts also provide musicians a way to meet up with their fans and to gain more exposure.
In Mission, Carol Hamilton of the local branch works with Fraser River Heritage Park manager Don Brown and show producer John Taves, along with an army of non-profit volunteers and small businesses, to put on the well-loved outdoor summer concerts.
In 22 years, Twilight has grown from a few dozen to sometimes 300 or 400 patrons who come out Wednesday and Friday evenings for the mini-festival atmosphere.
Many patrons religiously attend every concert and some even jealously guard their favourite spots on the grass, said Byrom.
"It warms my heart to see them come out. It's about bringing the community together, it's part of who we are," she said.
Although patrons are asked to contribute donations, the open-air concerts are free.
Envision has provided the Twilight concerts $182,000 over the years, and $75,000 to the Abbotsford concerts to date. The funding is crucial to give some stability to the events, and to support the non-profit arts groups that have seen funding grants shrink in recent years.
"Money is always an issue, and many of our non-profit partners are struggling. That's when you wrap your arms around your partner organizations and stand by them," said Byrom.
However, it's not simply a matter of writing a big cheque. Envision's mandate includes developing close ties with its non-profit partners, she said.
Much of Envision's contribution comes from in-kind donations, particularly in marketing.
The credit union provides the concert programs distributed at the venues, to credit union members, and to Langley, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge communities.
Envision employees volunteer at the events. Several musically talented employees have acted as adjudicators for the Abbotsford Arts Council when it chooses performers for the coffee house concerts.
The endeavour also draws in several other non-profit groups who provide volunteers, the coffee shop venues and several local businesses who cover various needs or provide prizes.
The Twilight concerts run from June to August on Wednesday and Friday nights at Fraser River Heritage Park.
Producer John Taves brings in local talent in June, B.C. artists in July and national performers in August. Fans hear groups ranging from Mission high school jazz bands to folk and big bands to Canadian big names including Bernie and Red, Wheat in the Barley and Souled Out.
Envision partners with the Abbotsford Arts Council in the Envision Coffee House Series in the spring and fall on Saturdays at four venues: House of James, Clayburn Gourmet Gallery, Wired Monk McCallum Road and Wired Monk Parallel Marketplace.
These are on from May to June, then September to October.
Coming up at the Twilight series, the Abbotsford Concert Band performs June 15 at 7 p.m., and Arnold Shoichet is on June 20. Bring a blanket or lawn chair.
In the Coffee House series, Mars 31 performs rock folk on June 16 at 8 p.m. at the Wired Monk, 111 -1975 McCallum Rd., Abbotsford.
For a full listing of Twilight Concert Series performers, see www.heritagepark-mission.ca.
For a full listing of Concert in the Park and Coffee House Concert series, see abbotsfordartscouncil.com.