Ten years ago, Vik Bains wanted to share something with his community that was close to his heart.
Diwali – the Festival of Lights – had always been a special celebration for his family; a holiday where delicious food, bright colours, and lots of laughter created a strong sense of connection and love. So, in 2010, as a then-newly appointed TD branch manager in Rutland, Bains wanted to help share Diwali celebrations with more people in the city where he was born and raised.
"All of our community members and neighbours in Kelowna – we are all like family," Bains said. "And so, I wanted to bring that joy I experience when celebrating Diwali every year to as many people as possible."
Bains got right to work on organizing a community Diwali dinner, spending months planning, calling venues, putting together guest lists, creating and sending invites. TD executives from Toronto were also planning to attend.
Expectations were high. But when the evening finally arrived, things didn't turn out quite as planned.
"Only 12 guests showed up!" Bains said with a chuckle. "I felt a hit to my stomach for sure, but what can you do? We just rolled with it and ended up having a very nice dinner."
With encouragement from his leaders, Bains hosted another dinner the following year, and has organized one every Diwali since. A decade later, the now-annual TD Diwali dinner is one of the most anticipated events in Kelowna, particularly for the city's South Asian community. Hundreds of people from all cultural backgrounds attend each year.
"Diwali is always an amazing celebration for everyone,” Bains says. “It’s a huge honour to host and it really reflects how TD lives up to its values when it comes to diversity and inclusion."
The TD Diwali dinner has become so significant that in 2019, the local Member of Parliament presented Bains' branch with a certificate of recognition for its support of Kelowna's growing South Asian community.
This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bains and his team had to hit pause on planning a big gathering, but they continue to stay connected to the community. Recently, TD donated funds to help support the city's new immigrants and their families, including the purchase of gift cards for groceries.
"We all need each other to help overcome these difficult times," Bains said. "While we must stay physically distant, my colleagues and I at TD want to make sure we do everything we can to help wherever and whenever possible."
"That's what Diwali – and quite frankly, what living in Kelowna – is all about," Bains said, "And that's what makes me so proud."