Category Archives: People

Okanagan Gleaners Feed Hungry People

The consulting firm, Value Chain International, recently reported IMG_1143that in Canada $31 Billion worth of food is wasted annually. In view of this, I’m impressed with what Okanagan Gleaners Society of Oliver is doing. The Gleaners have developed an ingenious but simple formula using unwanted food to feed hungry people around the globe.

In a 2 hour tour of the Gleaners plant, Society president Lex Haagen told Linda and me, “We’re almost 100 percent volunteer and donor driven. Except for the General Manager, we’re all volunteers.” Lex appreciates the help being given by people in the Similkameen Valley. He hopes many more will catch the vision and pitch in.

A former City of Abbotsford Fire Chief, Lex is lean and fit. He has certainly caught the vision. His enthusiasm and commitment are palpable. Observing the approximately 20 volunteers at work, we sensed an aura of determination and contentment. Intent on their assignments, they seemed largely oblivious to our presence.

We learned the Gleaners depend on donations of beans, egg

Lex Haagen holding a bag of dried soup mix.
Lex Haagen holding a bag of dried soup mix.

plant, onions, carrots, brussel sprouts , peas, potatoes, etc. They also welcome apples. The produce is chopped up, dried and stored in barrels. The apple chips are a treat particularly prized by children.

“By next April we’ll have about 900 full barrels,” Lex explained. “We will use an assembly line of people to scoop a measured amount of mix into a moving bucket. This will be transferred into plastic bags. Each bag will contain 15 to 20 ingredients and provide 100 servings of soup mix. Recipients will add their local spices. The apple chips are bagged

Jack Woods has been a volunteer since 2003.
Jack Woods has been a volunteer since 2003.


Lex introduced us to Jack Woods, formerly in the trucking business. Now 81, he said, “I’ve been coming since 2003. Two weeks in spring and two in fall.” His face suggests strength of character, his voice exudes passion.

Sharon McClennan saw hungry children when she volunteered in the Philippines. She asked, “where else can I go to help produce 21,000 meals per day for people who are starving?”

As we passed the noisy dehydrators, we needed to listen carefully as

Sharon McClennan holding a handful of spinach
Sharon McClennan holding a handful of spinach

Lex continued. “The funds to run and maintain the equipment come almost entirely from individual donors. The vegetables and apples are supplied by farmers and others. If the quantity is fairly large, we will pick up. We also use frozen product, provided by Lucerne Foods in Abbotsford. Cobs in Penticton and Tim Horton’s in Oliver donate (day old) treats for coffee time.”

The soup mixes and apple chips are distributed through established, reputable organizations such as World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, Missions Without Borders and several others. Hungry people in over 40 countries on 5 continents have received the mixes.

At least 8 Gleaners societies currently operate in Canada. “We make good use of food that would otherwise be wasted,” Lex told us. “Each year our plant produces at least 5 million servings. To accomplish this we depend on donations of produce and money. We also need people with specific skills such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, mechanics, and accounting.”

A note from an appreciative African aid worker describes the Gleaners impact in one village. “After the people here had been eating the soup mix for a month, we noticed they were more alert and had energy to work.”

Toward the end of our tour, Lex observed, “it’s easy to write a cheque, but there is a deep satisfaction that comes from hands on experience. Volunteers know they are personally providing nutritious food to hungry people.”

Okanagan Gleaners began operations in 1996, the vision of a small group of Christians concerned about food being wasted while others starved. “We welcome anyone who wants to help,” Lex said. “We never turn anyone away.”

Volunteers arrive from all parts of B.C. and the prairie provinces, even Ontario. Twelve serviced RV sites are available, plus tenting in the orchard. Registration is important from April to October. “In summer we get quite a few families,” Lex said. “It’s a good way for children to learn about giving to those who have little.” According to the Gleaners website, “if you can clean and chop, you can help.” They work from 8:30 to noon.

Anyone wanting more information can call 250-498-8859 or go to

Bob Enjoys His Trike


Bob, my neighbour two doors away is a committed triker. When I asked him recently about the comfort level of his trike he said “if you compare a Cadillac and an Austin, this is the Cadillac. Having the motor in the rear gives it a great ride.”

This trike has been driven from B.C. to Nova Scotia, although not by Bob. About half a dozen years ago it was owned by Rick and Jean Mackie, who also live on Kingston Ave. It didn’t have a seat for Jean so Bob helped Rick extend it by about 3 feet. It was the Mackies who made the cross Canada trip. All went well. Not long after they returned, Bob bought the trike.

Now in his mid-seventies, Bob is a likeable, comfortable man to talk with. No matter what he’s doing on his yard, he always has time for a visit.

He didn’t start out that way. “When I was 14,” he told me, “I stole a car with another guy. That landed me in court.”

Possibly the judge saw potential in this youth. “I can send you to a young guys section in Oakalla where you will do nothing,” he said, “Or, I can send you to an adult section where you’ll work.”

Without hesitating Bob said, “send me to where I will work.” For the entire 11 months and 21 days of his sentence he worked on a gym construction project.

“That straightened me out real good,” he said. “I never got in trouble again. I just wanted to get out and get a job. Four months after getting out of the can, I was talking with a guy who worked on tugs. He said I should apply. The person who took my application asked,’When can you start?’”

When Bob was 17, he began building and racing stock cars. “I had all the safety equipment, like a helmet and a parachute.”

He has slowed down some since then and very much enjoys the IMG_1066trike. His little dog, Max,  has his own compartment and rides everywhere with him.

I asked Bob about the cost of trikes. “To have one built privately would run about $12,000. – $15,000,” he said. “The price of a new Harley would be about $60,000. Bombardier makes a great machine for less. It has warm seats and handgrips.”

Bob retired from the tugboats when he was 60. “My wife was sick,” he said. “She wanted me to retire. That’s when we moved to Hedley for her health.” A note of sadness crept into his voice. “She lasted only four months.”

Observing Bob today, I still see vestiges of the once robust tug boat worker’s physique. He doesn’t need that former strength for riding the trike, of course. With a 210 hp Pontiac motor, the trike now provides the power. He is retired after all, and enjoying the quiet life in Hedley.

Eric Goodfellow Visits Camp Defiance

Eric Goodfellow  April 2015
Eric Goodfellow
April 2015

Eric Goodfellow of Princeton may be the only individual who ever walked the rugged mountainous trail from Princeton to Hope at the age of 7.

He sent me an e-mail after reading my column about Bill Robinson’s cabin at Camp Defiance along the Hope-Princeton Highway. My research had not led me to any living persons who had walked the trail in those early years. For this reason his words surprised me. “I walked with my father from Princeton to Hope in 1934. We stopped in at the cabin and visited with Bill Robinson. He gave us coffee with sugar.”

Hoping he might be able to expand my understanding of this aspect of BC geography and history, I invited him for coffee and a conversation. When he arrived at my home in Hedley at 10:00 a.m. as arranged, I sensed immediately that he is a congenial individual who enjoys people. He began by saying, “In 1927 my father, Reverend John C. Goodfellow, was invited to become pastor of the United Church in Princeton. I was only 6 weeks old when we moved from Victoria. The first time I walked the trail with him was in 1934. All I carried that time was a pillow. He carried our sleeping bags and food.”

In answer to my question as to his father’s motivation for undertaking such an arduous and unlikely trek, Eric said, “He took along 10-15 boys. They were mostly from the Sunday School in his church, but other boys were welcome. He didn’t talk much about religion on these walks. I think he just wanted to develop relationships with the boys and build into their young lives. He walked the trail 19 times, always starting out on the first Monday of July. All told he took along a total of about 250 boys. The last 2 years a Mrs. Busche came along, each time with a group of girls.”

They began their trek on the section of highway from Princeton to Fraser Camp, (the Whipsaw Creek area),where the road ended at that time. “From there we climbed the Dewdney Trail up the mountain to about the 7000 foot level,” he said. “At the top we removed our shoes and socks and stuck our feet into the ice cold water of a lake. That was very refreshing.”

“There were places where the trail was overgrown and narrow. In the morning the branches were wet with dew. They slapped our faces and bodies. By noon our clothes were soaked and we built a fire to dry ourselves. We rarely saw anyone else on the trail. At night we cut boughs and placed our sleeping bags on them. We didn’t have tents. We built a big fire to keep away the animals.”

The only adverse incident Eric remembers is when a boy placed a full can of pork’n beans on the fire without first poking holes in the top. “It exploded and we were all covered with beans.” It was probably a minor disaster. He laughs now at the memory.

“When we got to Hope,” Eric said, “Mr. Thacker let us pick big ripe strawberries in his field. We put them in our bowls and poured cream on them from a small Pacific Milk can.” With his fingers he indicated the can was about 3 inches tall. Getting cleaned up after nearly a week in the wilderness was another highlight for the boys. “The manager of the Commercial Hotel let us wash up.”

In our conversation he returned a couple of times to the delicious strawberries with cream and the opportunity to wash off the grime. His appreciation is still very evident. “Saturday at midnight,” he said, “we got on the Kettle Valley CPR train and arrived in Princeton at 4 am.” Eric did the walk with his father seven times.

Eric Goodfellow, Bill Robinson, Rev. John C. Goodfellow (photo supplied by Eric Goodfellow)
Eric Goodfellow, Bill Robinson, Rev. John C. Goodfellow (photo supplied by Eric Goodfellow)

In 1946 he undertook one more adventure through the difficult terrain, this time driving a Model A Ford on the as yet incomplete Hope-Princeton Highway. “They hadn’t built bridges over the creeks,” he said. “We had to drive through them. There was a bridge over the Sumallo River not far from Bill Robinson’s cabin though, and I stopped in and had a very pleasant visit with him.” At the end of our conversation, I felt as though I had been at Eric’s side on the trail, experiencing the rigours and joys of this momentous adventure.

Henry’s Example

I have long been intrigued by the ability of some people to place

sowing good seeds by example
sowing good seeds by example

uplifting seeds into the hearts and minds of those around them. For me this becomes particularly impressive when I see the seeds bearing fruit in future generations. This morning I spoke with Florence. For many years, she and her now-departed husband Abe, have been members of the Fraser Valley Breakfast Group Linda and I belong to. I asked for permission to recount several anecdotes from her family. She agreed readily and mentioned a piece of the family story I had not been aware of. This is where I will begin.

For many years Abe’s father Henry operated a small roofing business. Henry was of my parents’ generation and like them, an individual I respected highly for his integrity. Florence told me there had been times when his customers were not able to pay for the work he had done. Rather than harassing them for the money, Henry chose a more compassionate response. He forgave the debt. As a young man, Abe worked with his Dad and was aware that at times this happened.


Henry’s example evidently influenced his son. Abe was a large man with a bearing, voice, attitude and wisdom that brought him respect and credibility. On one occasion he and Florence and several friends were in a restaurant. Abe’s attention was drawn to a family at a nearby table. The children were well behaved, but the parents faces revealed tension. Troubled by this, Abe got up and approached the family.

“I just want to tell you,” he said in his deep, gentle voice, “ I’ve been observing your children. I see they are respectful and well behaved. You must be very good parents.” Surprised, the couple looked up at the big man who had unexpectedly appeared at their table. The tension in their faces eased, and their bodies relaxed. They smiled and the man said, “thanks for your encouraging words. It’s good to hear we’re doing something right.”


When the husband of their daughter Marlys walked out of the marriage and family, Abe and Florence sold their condo and moved in with her. She needed to work to support her family. The children were young and she couldn’t leave them alone. Financially, selling their home was a sacrifice, since it took them out of a rising real estate market. For them, the investment in family was more important.

When Marlys was about to get married again, her fiance Ron recognized and valued what her parents had done. He felt deeply impressed. He said to Marlys, “your parents really stepped up to

Cruise ship honeymoon
Cruise ship honeymoon

the plate in a big way when you needed their help. I’d like to do something to thank them. Let’s take them along on our honeymoon cruise.” Surprised, she agreed. Since then she has said to Ron several times, “I still can’t believe we took my parents along on our honeymoon.” It was a pretty unique and impressive way of saying “thanks Mom and Dad.”


Ron has since continued this pattern of thinking positively and blessing people. Recently he and Jim, a co-worker, walked across the street to a casino during their lunch break from work. Ron’s idea was to have lunch and also a little fun. For him the “little fun” resulted in winning $70. Jim lost $60. Ron bought lunch, costing $10. He wanted to give the remaining money to Jim. He knew, though, he wouldn’t take it. Handing the money to Jim, he asked him to hold it for a minute. Then he said, “we went here for lunch and to have some fun. Our idea wasn’t to earn money. We do that on the job. Today I won $70 and bought lunch for both of us. Now I still have the $60 left, which I really don’t need. You lost $60. If I give you my $60, we will have had some fun and a nice lunch, and it hasn’t cost us anything”. Jim accepted this logic and gratefully pocketed the money.


In his roofing business and elsewhere, Henry demonstrated to his son a generous way of dealing with people. Abe and Florence lived by the same principle. They passed it on to their offspring and others. It would be interesting to know how many future generations will be impacted by Henry’s example.

Our Easter Weekend

Linda and I both grew up in a Mennonite church. As a kid I was

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

reluctant to attend a service on Good Friday but it was what our family did. Good Friday services seem to be somewhat rare now, but the little church in Hedley did have one this year. Derek Lilly, a professional electrician and former Fire Chief spoke. He challenged us with “something to think about” and kept it to a decent length, something I still appreciate.

On a purely intellectual level I consider it an improbability that the God who created the universe and humankind would send his Son to die for beings he deemed to be sinful. For me, accepting this has required a huge leap across an intellectual chasm. However, the improbability of it is also uncannily appealing, at least for me. It’s a “scheme” to which I could not sacrifice either my son or daughter. It’s such an incredible plan that after dealing with many doubts and misgivings over the years, I have come to accept that it actually happened.

Sunday morning we were at the Coast and decided to attend the Easter service at South Langley Church (Mennonite). The reason for this selection was that a former classmate, Joanne, attends there and we thought that with a little luck we might see her. It’s a large church so we knew it was a longshot. We were surprised to see her sitting in the row ahead of ours and just a little farther along. She recognized us immediately and waved.

After the service I asked if she had served with the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), something she mentioned in an e-mail last summer. She said she had cooked for the volunteers during the High River, Alberta flood and its aftermath. “I loved it,” she told us. We have only occasional contacts with former school friends, so this was special.

In the afternoon it was a family gathering on Linda’s side. The meals at these gatherings invariably have an unsettling effect on my resolve, and at times on my stomach. Our daughter Vivian had made her much loved dessert. Also Linda’s sister Leona had baked large apple pies. I sampled both desserts, with ice cream.

After the meal, the ladies decided to play Skippo as usual. They are an amazingly fanatical bunch and carry on for hours. Eventually it becomes tedious for us men. When Vivian and Troy decided to leave, I went with them.

While Linda was playing the game, I walked in a wooded area and

My walk on Easter weekend
My walk on Easter weekend

then across a wetlands and around a large man made duck pond. Fortunately, the path across the wetland had largely dried up. At times we’ve found it submerged under more than a foot of water. I’m very pleased the city is protecting this area from development. Had the camera with me and snapped a few shots.

I’m reluctant and somewhat embarrassed to admit that Monday evening I ate a slice of Costco apple pie, which I discovered in Vivian’s fridge . Pretty tasty, but not competition for Leona’s home made version. This was after a lunch gathering with my side of the family at sister Linda’s farm.

While we were at the Coast we stayed with Vivian, Troy and family, as usual. Both Brandon (15 and now almost 6 ft 5 in.) and Alexa are on basketball teams at school. Alexa began more recently but surprised and impressed me with her ability to sink 3 point shots. They used to ask me to play with them in their backyard, but I noticed with a bit of chagrin that this time there was no invitation. They have progressed too far beyond Grampa’s experience and ability. Possibly with a personal coach I’d be at least considered.

Art & Greenhouse (3)Tuesday morning it was time to get back to Hedley and attend to the chickens and the garden. I’ve constructed a greenhouse as an experiment to see if I can protect our kale, bok choy , cabbage, etc. from the predations of Cabbage Moths. Last year they reminded me of the grasshoppers in Egypt during Moses’ time. They just kept coming Chasing them down with a butterfly net had no discernible impact on their numbers. Time for a new strategy.

It was an enjoyable Easter weekend.

Children Walk In Our Footsteps

For a number of years I had several career criminals in my circle of friends. They enabled me to understand more fully that our attitude, thinking, words and example have the capacity to shape not only ourfootsteps_2608305 children, but also our grandchildren and beyond. One of these men was Roy. I met him at Matsqui Institution where he was doing time for a string of B&E’s and heroin possession.

“My Old Man was a petty crook, in and out of Oakalla,” he told me. “After my Mom died, he married again. The woman didn’t like me. She was always trying to get me booted out of the family.”

Roy’s massive arms, barrel chest and balding pate gave him the burly image of a Mafia hitman. Inside though, he felt he was an outcast from society. Although he could joke and be funny at times, he viewed the world as a sinister place where danger lurked. Deeply entrenched in the criminal culture and feeling abandoned by his derelict father, he trusted no one. At age 43, in desperation he applied to our organization for a citizen sponsor. As coordinator of the Matsqui program, I matched him with Walter, a patient, steady poultry farmer. Roy tested his commitment repeatedly, but Walter didn’t flinch or waver.

When Roy was paroled, he found Sonia, a woman as lonely and bereft as himself. Nine months later she bore Sammy, a blond, blue eyed, good natured kid.

Roy loved the child. He felt responsible for imparting to Sammy the destructive perceptions he’d picked up from his father. When kid-435140__180Sammy was 3, Roy placed him on a table and said, “Jump Sammy, Daddy will catch you.” He reached out his arms. Trusting his dad, Sammy stepped to the edge of the table and jumped. Roy stepped back, letting the boy land on the hard floor. Looking down at his weeping child he said, “Son, that’s to teach you never to trust anyone.”

At this time Roy was still shooting up with heroin. When he and Sonia threw in the towel on their relationship, the separation added further disturbance to Sammy’s already chaotic life. He began running away when he was four and the police were called several times. At age seven he was accused of starting a fire in the apartment where he and Roy were living. Fearing he’d lose the boy to a foster home, Roy told police he had set the fire himself. Aware of his extensive prison record, the police believed him. I spoke on his behalf in court but he was sentenced to a minimum security facility.

Roy was benefiting from the relationship with Walter and several others in the community. Upon release, wanting to be a better father, he dumped the heroin habit. Unfortunately, he hadn’t anticipated the void that resulted. He sought to fill it with alcohol. One evening he left Sammy in the car while he and a friend spent an hour in a bar. Unwisely, he drove after too many drinks. Fortunately Sammy wasn’t hurt when the car left the road and plunged into a deep ditch. Roy wasn’t so lucky. He spent the rest of his days in a wheelchair.

In his early teen years, Sammy was picked up several times for shoplifting and other petty crimes. Once again Roy feared Children’s Services would take the boy. One day he said to me, “Do you want Sammy? He’s getting into too much trouble. I’m not a good father. I want to give him to you.” Linda and I had 2 young children and we didn’t want to subject them to the mayhem of Sammy’s increasingly unruly life.

In time, Roy developed considerable trust in the people in our organization. The messages he received from us were positive, and he came to value that. People invited him into their homes for meals. Slowly, the suspicion ebbed.

Unfortunately, the negative seed he had planted in Sammy’s psyche had taken root and flourished. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Before he was 20, those footsteps led to prison.

I was a young dad at the time. Roy’s example helped me understand it is essential that parents sow good seed in their children’s lives which will produce honest, contributing citizens and a stable society.

Breathing Life Into a Defunct Camaro



This 1981 Camaro has been thoroughly neglected for 15 years. Hasn’t been driven. Hasn’t even been started. For much of this time it has been parked on Mike’s yard, the next door neighbour of our daughter Vivian and her family. No one demonstrated any interest in the car, except for one person.

For about 2 years our grandson Brandon has periodically said to Mike, “When are you going to give me the Camaro?” He was 14 when he began asking the question. Mike is about 40, a big guy with a big voice. He just laughed.

Maybe he was waiting for Brandon to be old enough to drive. Approximately 3 months ago he said to him, “O.K. you can move the Camaro onto your yard now. It’s yours.” Brandon will turn 16 at the end of June.

It’s a Z28, with a 350 cubic inch motor, the biggest one available in this top of the line model. This is a lot of power for a driver at any age, especially a young man of 16. It has Granny a tad concerned but we know Brandon has demonstrated an ability to make wise choices. Even so, Granny will say some extra prayers once the car is road worthy.

Having stood idle so long, the car needs more than just some tender loving care. Fortunately Brandon’s Dad, our son in law Troy, has plenty of experience with breathing life into classic vehicles. His restoration of a red 1970 Cuda convertible still produces a sense of awe in me. One of the Dukes of Hazard bought another car he had restored. He sets a high standard and gives meticulous attention to detail.

Brandon admiring some of the changes that have been made.
Brandon admiring some of the changes that have been made.

Most of Troy’s working life has been in automotive parts outlets. Fora number of years he has been with Mopac Auto Supplies (“where power is everything“). He knows cars and is the brains behind the restoration of the Camaro. He gives the directions and Brandon does most of the work. They can be found in the shop long after dark.

In the photo at the top they are discussing the best means of removing the gas tank. Troy has an automotive scope camera that allows him a peek at the inside. “There is a lot of gunk in there,” he said. The problem at this point is that someone put a hitch on the car years ago and it won’t permit the tank to come down. It’s hard to believe anyone would put a hitch on a Camaro.

It’s actually somewhat amazing to see Troy working on a Camaro. From the beginning, he’s been a loyal Chrysler Corp. fan. I’m certain he hasn’t worked on a General Motors Co. product previously. It’s good to see that his loyalty to Chrysler is outweighed by loyalty to his son.

There will be a cost to bringing this old lady to life. Fortunately Troy can buy at wholesale and he also knows people who have used parts. In a few instances, some individuals have taken an interest in Brandon’s project and have donated parts.

Some years ago Chev General Manager Pete Estes said, “the name Camaro suggests the comradeship of good friends, as a personal car should be to its owner.”

This Camaro is also deepening the comradeship between father and son.

The Jacobs of Hedley

Michelle & Mike Jacobs of Hedley
Michelle & Mike Jacobs of Hedley

In the poker game we call life, some individuals believe they have been dealt a losing hand. Talking with Mike Jacobs, a Mohawk from Ontario, I quickly gathered that he gives a swift and decisive boot to these kinds of thoughts.

In response to my question concerning the impact of his early years, Mike wouldn’t give me permission to write anything that could be interpreted as “snivelling,” (to use his expression). He said only “When I was young I worked on farms. A couple were good, some weren’t. Sometimes I had to get up at 4:30 to milk cows. Often I had to work until dark. I don’t look back or complain. Those experiences prepared me for challenges later in life. They made me tougher and stronger. Life is what we make of it. I look ahead.”

Mike and wife Marie live just outside Hedley on 8 acres, with a spectacular view of the Similkameen River. Mike’s daughter Michelle lives in Hedley.

He became aware early of an artist’s fascination with wood and for a time developed this interest. Within him lived a powerful drive to succeed financially though, and he turned to work that brought in money. His motivation far exceeded the usual. “From the age of 17 to 57 I always had a job,” he said. “I was a workaholic. Even when I was young, while others were partying, I was putting a roof on someone’s house, or installing doors. I partied when the work was done. Most of the time I had 2 or 3 jobs.”

Mike’s practical abilities enabled him to launch a home renovation business and also a pre-purchase home inspection business. He constantly scanned the horizon for opportunities to acquire new skills. “When I was working for the City of Burnaby,” he said, “I took every course they offered, in case the job with the city didn’t last.”

He declined to list his various trades but did admit to being a journeyman carpenter. After an injury and the arthritis that followed, the city made him Coordinator of Maintenance.

In his youth Mike didn’t learn the Mohawk language or culture. Later though, he looked into his First Nations heritage. “As a kid I never thought of myself as white,” he said. “Our heritage should always mean something to us. But we don’t need to be militant.”

People sometimes tell him he threw away his gifting when he focused on work rather than pursuing his artistic interests. He responds with, “I didn’t throw away my gifting. I passed it on to my daughter Michelle.”

We were sitting at a work table in his shop, with Michelle listening intently. At one point she said, “Dad always had the Mohawk ability to work high above the ground. His sense of balance was off the charts.”

Michelle has certainly inherited Mike’s interest in artwork. While we talked she worked patiently, drawing a man wearing a wolf headdress. She also does beadwork. Although this isn’t where she earns a living, much of what she makes is for sale under the name “Beadwork by Michelle.” Some of her inspiration comes from the legendary Chief Dan George. “He had a modern life style and still taught the older ways,” she said. “I’ve read a lot of his poetry.”

Like her father, Michelle has practical working skills. She’s a certified electrician, working north of Fort McMurray. She gets a thrill, she told me, “when a project is completed and we turn on the lights.” When I asked if working with crews consisting primarily of men was intimidating, she said, “right now there are 4 females and about 180 men on the project. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve worked with Dad a lot. I’m used to being around men on the job.”

Mike and Marie arrived in the Hedley area in 2008. Since then they have become deeply integrated into the community. They belong to the Community Club and the Seniors’ Centre. At the latter, along with others, they take turns hosting the morning coffee time. Mike supervised a complete renovation of the Centre and Michelle did the electrical work.

The Jacobs believe in contributing. “When people get involved,” Mike says, “everyone benefits.”

Mike has recently returned to his love of working with wood. On Saturday, March 28th he will display his and Michelle’s creations at the Hedley Seniors’ Centre Annual Craft sale.

A “Chicken Soup for the Soul” Moment

Beryl Wallace probably has more “Chicken Soup for the Soul” moments than most of us. Unlike the two Biblical religious leaders who passed by on the other side of the road when they came upon an injured Samaritan man, Beryl invariably moves in close.

A few days ago she noticed three teens with heavily loaded bikes in front of the Dollar Store on the main street in Princeton. They were obviously on a serious expedition.

Later, on her drive home on the winding and not smooth Old Hedley Road, she came upon them again. One had fallen and his bike was lying in the middle of the road. They appeared to be in a state of uncertainty, not knowing how to deal with this crisis. Beryl had no first aid kit and might have been excused if she had decided she couldn’t be of assistance. That isn’t the way she is wired. She pulled over. “Do you need help?” she asked. She quickly realized the young man had serious abrasions and was in pain. Beryl flagged down a vehicle, hoping the driver had a First Aid kit. She didn’t.

When the next car came, she got lucky. The driver had a First Aid kit and also some experience with situations like this. After causing wincing with a generous dose of iodine, she bandaged the scrapes. Very impressed with the woman’s skill, Beryl asked, “are you a nurse?”

“No,” the lady answered. “I’m a mother.”

Beryl then asked the boys their age and where they were from.

Photos courtesy of mile by
Photos courtesy of mile by

“We are all from Coquitlam” the fallen rider said. “I’m 17 and my friends are the same. We are in grade 11. We have come through the mountains on the Hope-Princeton Highway, on our way to Penticton. This is the farthest away from the city we have ever been.” It’s not surprising they appeared lean and very fit.

Touching one of the bandages, the young man who had suffered the scrapes then asked, “will I be able to have a shower tonight?” Beryl assured him this would be possible. “Just start riding now, and in about 15 minutes you’ll feel better.” She then drove home, picked up more bandages and 3 bananas and found them again.

They expressed their great gratitude to this angel who had unexpectedly come upon them and stopped to help. “Is there anything else I can do for you? she asked. “Yes,” the young man with the scrapes said. “Could I have a hug?”

For Beryl, it’s a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” memory she will always treasure. For many of us, it is an example of how to be a good neighbour even to those we do not know.

Ruth Woodin, Hedley’s Congenial Postmaster

I used to believe happy, successful individuals must have received

Ruth Woodin, Hedley's Congenial Postmaster
Ruth Woodin, Hedley’s Congenial Postmaster

more lucky breaks than the rest of us. Anyone who thinks as I did needs to have a conversation with Ruth Woodin, Hedley’s congenial, upbeat Postmaster.

Most people would not guess that she has experienced traumatic, unnerving moments and days that could have pulled apart the seams of her life. An early tough break came at age 12 when her father unexpectedly walked away from the family, leaving her mother with 5 children to feed and raise. For Ruth the parting was not pleasant and it created memories and emotions that troubled her well into adulthood.

Her dream was to teach elementary school, but when she graduated, there was no money for university.

“My mom pulled out a newspaper and circled several help wanted ads,” she remembers. “There was one for a Time Keeper/Clerk with a forestry company. I told her I didn’t even know what that was.”

“You’re smart,” her mom said. “You can learn.”

Ruth had little confidence, but she applied. After writing the company’s test she was told no one had ever completed it as quickly and accurately.

The company flew her to Pt. Alice on Vancouver Island. “The last lap was in a Beaver with pontoons,” she said. “I was so scared I thought I would die. An elderly Chinese man reached out his hand. I grabbed it and hung on until we landed.” She laughed heartily at the memory.

Initially Ruth didn’t know how to operate any of the office machines. However, she quickly learned to keep time and prepare paycheques for a lot of workers.

On an excursion to Penticton she met Dwayne and fell in love. They got married in 1972 and in time adopted 2 children. When they moved to Hedley for employment reasons, Ruth considered the community small and isolated. The marriage ended unexpectedly in 1991. She had not seen the end coming, and was still bearing the scars from her father’s desertion. The experience threatened to unravel her emotionally.

“My life descended into chaos,” she said. “I was divorced. My daughter and I moved. During that time my mother committed suicide. Also, I still missed my mother-in-law who had recently died.”

Ruth considers it fortunate she was working for the One Way Adventure Foundation. “Jean Roberts (co-founder with husband Len) held my hand through this time. We cried together and prayed. I didn’t pray but she did. The people in the Foundation were wonderful. They sent me encouraging notes.” With the undergirding of her 2 children, friends and co-workers, she experienced inner healing. When the Foundation began downsizing, she found part-time work with the Post Office.

One day a call came from Canada Post. “You are now Hedley’s Acting Postmaster,” she was told. This was the beginning of a new adventure that delights her to this day. “I love my job,” she said, smiling broadly. “People talk to me, sometimes about their heartaches.”

One day a young man told her she was fortunate to have a wonderful family. He felt unworthy because he and his wife were unable to have children. “My children are adopted,” Ruth told him. “You can adopt too. Just do something.” He and his wife now have 3 children.

I’ve had my share of hard knocks,” she said, growing serious. “This helps me understand when people are feeling down. I’ve received a lot of love from people in Hedley. I want to give something to others. Love comes back.”

Over the years Ruth has given generously of her time and energy. She belongs to the Community Club, the Seniors’ Centre, is a Director at the Hedley Museum and is a Trustee of the Hedley Improvement District.

Recently Ruth’s financial advisor told her he’d like to help her retire early. “I’m not ready,” she said. “I love my job.” She let it slip that if she stays another 4 years, she will exceed the longevity record of war hero and iconic Postmaster, TC Knowles (1937- 1959).

Often when people come in to access their mail box, Ruth can be heard singing on the other side of the wall. She has a pleasing voice and a positive spirit. In most places going to the Post Office isn’t an uplifting experience. In Hedley, it often is.