You can learn a lot by helping.
And you can learn a lot from being helped.
For PRL’s third annual “Helping Issue,” two women who have been on both sides of Powell River’s charity scene share how gratifying it is to help others. In their own words, as told to Kirk Somers.
I was born here. My dad was born here on Powell Lake.
I used to live up in the bushes in the winter, off Powell Lake because I knew that area. I grew up there.
I had a friend who escaped from Riverview [mental health facility, in Coquitlam] so we were living together in the bush through the winter with no tent. That was really something. We had a van and stuff. He actually got taken back to Riverview, but he took off again. Then we were living on the Coquitlam River and then we moved to Stanley Park and we were living at Stanley Park the year they had the great big storm. It rained for three weeks once.
I came back to Powell River and my boyfriend went back to Riverview. I had a lot of people coming to my house that were from here and they said they were clients and addicts. I was still using stuff. I was just living down the street, so they all came to my house every day.
A lady told me about the Community Resource Centre, a friend of mine. She told me to come in here.
This place has changed a lot. There used to be a lot of different crowds, they were alcoholics; I was never really a violent person, but there were a lot of violent people; every day there used to be a fight. Right now it’s just a beautiful hang out clubhouse and there are all kinds of opportunities here for everybody.
I just came here to hang out, have coffee and check it out. And it used to be quite tense and nerve wracking because there was a crowd that was more rough. And I was asked if I wanted to wash dishes back here, so I said, yeah, I will try it.
I was in really bad shape when I came here too, like I was a broken down alcoholic. I couldn’t move very much, I was sick every morning, burnt out, and I didn’t really want to go to yoga. But my friend forced me twice a week to come. It prepared me, healed me, not 100 per cent, but it got me going.
Now I teach yoga here and I wash dishes. I feel glad about doing it, very happy to have this opportunity, and I love being around the people in the kitchen. They’re all really nice and really intelligent.
I had a real lifestyle change. I was alcoholic; I drank everyday; I smoked every day.
I am quite a changed person. I don’t drink anymore but I had lots of trauma in my life. I lost my children to the ministry and stuff like that. This place has given me a place to straighten out.
I really am an artist. I have done a lot of photography and painting. If anybody wants to call me for doing Christmas painting for windows, I am open to anything.
I wish they had these kind of things when I was growing up with my babies in this town. They never had anything like this.
I was born and raised in Powell River. I left Powell River when I was 21 and I worked on the Island in the kennels for 12 years. Then I went to New Westminster and I bought a dog groom shop. I was there for 17 years.
Things weren’t going well, because it was too much hassle back there; the drug scene and all that. I didn’t like that.
So I moved back to Powell River because my mom needed help, which turned out to be a tragedy because me and my mom, we didn’t get along. But I still helped her out and stayed for awhile and I bought an RV and moved to the trailer park. My dad died, and then my mom died not much later.
Meanwhile I started hanging out here at the Community Resource Centre, but I was getting bored here because I wanted to work. I would help clean once in awhile. Then it turned into full time.
I wanted to work in the kitchen by myself because I don’t like to communicate with people. I have been in the kitchen by myself now three years on Thursdays.
I started out doing the dishes; we didn’t get paid at the time, now they get paid. When I did it I didn’t care, it was a job, and honestly I hate doing dishes but I did them.
It’s sort of family here now and I wouldn’t know what I’d do if they weren’t here. My coworkers, we have a good time. We have good dinners here and at my house and preparing everything, so it’s like a family thing.
I really don’t have family anymore, so I use it for family. We all lean on each other, you know; they are great people.
I don’t know where I would be if I wasn’t here. I would probably be hanging out in the mall and drinking from a bottle out there. I would probably be drinking in a bush somewhere. I come in here and we know each other and everybody leans on each other.
I like coming here; you know they open the door in the morning, and I’ve got the kitchen to myself, the radio full blast. I love it; I hope this place never leaves. We need this place, people need us.
I feel at home, I feel comfortable here. I like being the kitchen boss on Thursdays. I know we have helped a few people be successful.
I got my driver’s licence and my passport through this place and I went to Vegas. I wanted three things: a trip, a home and a vehicle and I got all three and I am happy. This place is like family.