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  • Dec10Fri

    Creating Lasting Memories

    Kettle volunteer Gerry gives back after being helped by the Army. December 10, 2021 by Gavinder Randhawa
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Gerry and his son, Keagan
    Gerry and his son, Keagan

    'Tis the season for iconic red Salvation Army Christmas kettles lining the streets of your community, when the public get the chance to meet Army staff and volunteers giving their time to ring some bells to help raise vital funds for our programs and services.

    One of the volunteers you might meet in the Ridge Meadows community in British Columbia is Gerry, a 59-year-old who knows all too well just how important these programs can be for someone in need.

    Jobs Well Done

    Originally from Ireland, Gerry’s family moved to Vancouver when he was just four years old. His father, a loyal Manchester United soccer supporter, shared his love of the game with his son. As Gerry grew older, he ended up spending many hours on the soccer pitch, where his natural talents blossomed. However, issues with alcohol and substance abuse would sideline him from ever reaching his true potential.

    Growing up, Gerry struggled with memory loss. These challenges made everything in life more difficult, from school to work to building new relationships with others.

    “People thought I didn’t care,” Gerry explains, but the reality was he just couldn’t remember what was previously told to him.

    After dropping out of school, he found enjoyment building things and started working in construction through some of his teammates.

    “I couldn’t remember the blueprints of the job, but I was a good labourer,” he says. “I took pride in my work.”

    Loving Father

    Things were looking great for Gerry. He was working, sober and even became a father. However, after seven years together, the relationship fell through. Following a difficult separation in 2013, his ex-wife took custody of their child, Keagan, who was just three.

    Three months later, Gerry was living alone and hurting. That began an on-and-off battle with substance abuse.

    “I didn’t know what to do. I was alone, and I relapsed,” he shares.

    Even now, years after going through recovery, Gerry still deals with challenges that come from being a single father, including working around the transition his son needs to go through every week, changing from one home environment to another.

    “I want him to come here and have fun,” Gerry explains. “I just want to give him all of my time.”

    List of Concerns

    Gerry entered a treatment centre in Maple Ridge and discovered The Salvation Army in 2018, where he was able to find a support system that helped him.

    “Everyone treats others with respect and kindness,” Gerry explains about his time at The Salvation Army’s Ridge Meadows Ministries. “I don’t know how they do what they do every day with smiles on their faces.”

    Unfortunately for Gerry, his spell of misfortune continued as he suffered serious injuries after being involved in an accident where a truck hit him as he was crossing the road.

    “I’ve had multiple surgeries,” Gerry says as this incident added to the list of health concerns already stemming from time spent working in construction and on the soccer pitch. Dealing with persistent pain in his shoulder, wrist, knee and back, Gerry notes that he probably won’t be able to work again.

    Looking Forward

    Thankfully, Ridge Meadows Ministries offers the Adopt-a-Family program, where donors can support a family like Gerry’s. He was able to receive some Christmas gifts and a special turkey dinner last year.

    “I don’t have the money to get much,” Gerry explains. “Receiving these gifts was very heartwarming.”

    Keagan enjoys receiving gifts such as a new soccer ball that they can use together at the local field. Without these generous gifts, Gerry believes at Christmas “there would be less laughter and fewer smiles.”

    Always appreciative of the support he’s received, Gerry has looked to give back through volunteering. When at Ridge Meadows, “he was always extremely helpful and the first one to lend a hand,” says Bee Schroeder, community and family services co-ordinator.

    During Christmas kettle season, he regularly rings the bells and often brings Keagan, now aged 12, with him. “There’s not a feeling like it in the world, when you’re doing it for someone else and not expecting anything in return,” says Gerry as he prepares to take the bus from Mission, B.C., to his next kettle shift in Maple Ridge.

    Thanks to the support he’s received from programs such as Adopt-a-Family, Gerry has been able to spend more time with Keagan and enjoy Christmas. He also looks forward to more opportunities to volunteer.

    Photo: Tempest Photo

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