NORTH Shore business owner Melanie Bataille is grateful to have such supportive employees.
Apart from their winemaking and marketing chops, her staff at Cork It Winemaking also have big hearts, evident in the strong role they've played in a fundraising project paying tribute to her late husband, David, who died in April 2011 at age 34. Diagnosed with congestive heart failure a decade prior, he suffered a fatal heart attack while snowboarding.
David was the original owner of Cork It, a North Vancouver on-premise wine store, and his staff have long been tight-knit. In the wake of his passing, his team has firmly stood behind Melanie, 25, who took the reins.
"It's all the original staff that's working here now, they've definitely helped me out," she says.
"We're all really good friends here, more like a family," she adds.
Not only are Melanie's employees supporting her emotionally and with the business, they also got on board with a unique fundraising calendar project dedicated to helping others facing similar heart conditions.
"She's been amazing," says communications director Melodie Devlin, 27. "I can't believe how well she's handled it. We've all been there for her, but it's such a shock for all of us to go through it. I think we all just pulled together and made it happen and really made this place a success."
The team created a calendar last year on a much smaller scale. Based on its success, they took things to the next level this year, calling on talented friends with backgrounds in photography, hair and makeup to bring their vintage pin-up wine theme to life. In total, 15 people were involved, including willing friends who served as models.
Because of her additional job running a graphic design business, Devlin was recruited to handle post production. She also graced the cover with Melanie and Cork It manager Clayton Donohue.
Proceeds from calendar sales will support the Heart and Stroke Foundation in honour of David, who received support from the volunteer-based health charity working to eliminate and reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke through research, the promotion of healthy living and advocacy.
"It's our way to give back," says Melanie.
Melanie and David started dating in 2004 and were married in 2009. Despite his condition, he lived an active life.
"He was very healthy. We lived a very healthy lifestyle and did everything we could to keep that going, so it was definitely a shocker," says Melanie of his passing.
David was well-known in the North Shore community. He was an avid skateboarder and snowboarder, and founded Cork It 12 years ago.
"(He had) a heart-warming personality, really open and loving, he was a really great guy," says Melanie.
"He was friends with everyone. Every customer that came in loved him so much," adds Devlin.
David's presence can still be felt at the store, his photo hangs behind the cash, and his skateboards adorn the winemaking room, as does his extensive vinyl collection.
"People that really know him, when they come in and they see that kind of stuff, they think it's really heartwarming and it's a nice reminder for them too that he's still here," says Melanie.
The calendar project is a way to keep her husband's memory alive, as well as raise awareness of the importance of healthy living and just how many people of all ages are affected by heart conditions, she says.
The Cork It team hopes to continue to make calendars annually, as well as present additional fundraising events in the future.
When asked how she's been able to stay strong in the face of adversity, Melanie says it stems from knowing that everything happens for a reason.
"Also being really blessed that I was able to experience that
kind of love," she says. "A lot of people go their whole life and they don't get to experience that. It was really, really hard because you're so used to living one way with somebody for so long and then everything spirals out of control for a little while until you pick up the pieces.
"That's all you can do. Of course it's all about your network of friends and the people that pull together for you. Without those people it wouldn't have happened the way it did," she says.
The 2013 Cork It Winemaking Pin-Up Calendar is being sold for $20. Copies are available at the store, located at 1427 Crown St., in North Vancouver.
For more information, visit corkitwinemaking.com.
For more information on the Heart and Stroke Foundation, visit heartandstroke.com.
CORK It Winemaking's Melodie Devlin (left), Clayton Donohue and Melanie Bataille are featured on the cover of a fundraising calendar, available at their North Vancouver store.