A familiar face in both the Meadow Lake business and volunteer community, Geoff Barton is proud to make Meadow Lake his home. Recently, Geoff spoke with Northern Pride about his new role with the Northland Pioneers Lodge fundraising committee, his new business venture and Telemiracle.

Q: What is your role with the new Northland Pioneers Loge fundraising committee?
A: I stepped into the co-chair role with Guelda Wood just a few weeks ago actually.

Q: What encouraged you to want to do something like this?
A: I’ve been involved with the committee since we started a little over a year ago – around October 2015. At the time I was providing pharmacy services to the lodge, so, when Guelda asked me, I said absolutely. It’s an important initiative. I wanted to stay involved with it and see it through to the end.

Q: How’s the fundraising coming along thus far?
A: It’s been fairly positive. We’ve raised just over $600,000 so far in just the short time we’ve been in existence. The response from the community has been strong, our lotteries have been fairly good, and, especially thanks to some of the larger donations from groups like the Lions Club and the Co-op, we’re fairly happy with the response we’ve been getting.

Q: How much needs to be raised in total?
A: The goal when we started was estimated around $2.5 million for furnishings and equipment. Now, we’re anticipating it will be more like $3 million with appreciation when the time comes.

Q: Why is it important to you and to the community as a whole to ensure this project gets the support it needs?
A: Everybody will, at some point or another in their life, require a little bit more assistance with their day-to-day activities. The lodge is a place where many of these people make their home. They just need a little extra medical help, so it’s important for the people who find themselves in a long-term care situation to have a place that’s comfortable and is as close to being home as possible. A place where they can live with friends and people they know, and have  good social structure. It’s an important part of health care to have a solid, long-term care component to it.

Q: Do you have any new or different fundraising events coming up?
A: Our Chase the Ace thing is still going. We’re also going to do our Mother’s Day gala like we did last year when we had the Country Legends show. This year the entertainment will be different, but it will be the same kind of event. This year we’re also exploring the idea of what’s called Long-term Care Week. It’s sort of a week that will culminate with our gala where the committee will bring in speakers from the community, local experts and health care experts to give short presentations. I don’t think a lot of people understand about long-term care until they get there. Our intention is to have a week where we can provide some of that education to the public, have them learn about what long-term care is and develop that connection with them that way.

Q: Switching gears a little bit, are you originally from Meadow Lake?
A: No, I was born and raised in Prince Albert, graduated high school there and then went to Saskatoon where I attended university. I worked out of Saskatoon for a number of years until, about five years ago, there was an employment opportunity here – an opportunity to manage a pharmacy in Meadow Lake – and that’s what brought me here.

Q: What sort of education do you have?
A: I’m a pharmacist, but I took the scenic route to get that degree. I also have a degree in agriculture and three years of chemistry as well. You could say I overstayed my welcome at university.

Q: What is it that’s kept you in Meadow Lake all these years?
A: It’s a good lifestyle, a good pace of life. Coming from Saskatoon the first thing that strikes you is there’s not as much to do, but there’s different stuff to do. Professionally I prefer working in a small town. You have a better relationship with your colleagues – the doctors and nurses at the hospital. It’s also so close to the lakes. The first thing I did when I moved up here was buy a boat. It’s also close to home, as my parents still live north of P.A.

Q: Where have you worked since arriving here?
A: I did four years at Madill’s and then I helped out at Extra Foods over the Christmas break in 2015. Then, I went to work for almost a year at a private, family run pharmacy in Big River. I really enjoy the profession. It’s very dynamic, very challenging, but I love every bit of it.

Q: And now I hear you’re about to open your own pharmacy, correct?
A: Yes, I had an opportunity come my way to get into business with The Medicine Shoppe. It’s a franchise type model you typically see in smaller, strip mall areas in larger centres. Traditionally they haven’t gone into smaller rural locations, but they did their homework, studied the area to see if a small format, clinical type pharmacy like theirs will work, and they’re very positive it will. They’re excited and motivated to break into this type of market and I was here, so it is a perfect match.

Q: You also have a history with the Meadow Lake and District Chamber of Commerce, am I right?
A: Yes, I sat on the Chamber executive as vice-president for a term.

Q: What is the key to a successful business community in a place like Meadow Lake?
A: It’s all about relationships. That’s the key to any successful business. Meadow Lake is very collegial. If the economy is strong and your business is strong, the entire business community is strong. The key to maintaining your own success in business is ensuring your competitors and other partners in business are successful as well.

Q: Tell me about your involvement with the Meadow Lake Kinsmen.
A: I’ve been with the club for about three years.

Q: What are your thoughts on the annual Kinsmen Telemiracle, especially the local event coming up this weekend?
A: That event has always impressed me. That was the first big Kinsmen thing I did. Evan Haubrich was president at the time and he got me involved. It was right around Telemiracle time and it really impressed me how much the community supported it. The volunteers, the talent, the people who make donations. It was one of those things where everything was so ingrained in the community that everything came together. There’s still a lot of work involved, but things went along so smoothly… it’s funny how an event so big can sort of function as its own organism.

Q: Do you stay up all night for the entire event?
A: No, I’m too old for that stuff now. I like to think I can and some of the guys do, but I’m definitely not one of them.

Q: Do you have any personal hobbies or pastimes?
A: I like to get outside when I can. I’m an outdoors guy – golfing, fishing, camping, those sorts of things. That’s my break from reality.