A decade of fundraising breakfasts were celebrated at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport on Nov. 23 as the Salvation Army threw its 10th annual Dignity Breakfast event.
Hosted at Sky Hangar, hundreds of local dignitaries and community members were in attendance to listen to heartbreaking stories of hardships, mental fortitude, and the power of perseverance as two locals were brought on stage to share their connection to the Salvation Army.
After executive director, and retired major, David Macpherson started the event with a short speech and presentation, he introduced Coleen Pierre of the Katzie First Nation to conduct a land acknowledgement.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Nicole MacDonald and Maple Ridge Mayor Dan Ruimy were next on stage to each give speeches about what this event and the Salvation Army mean to them, which shared a common theme.
“The biggest message I’ve got this morning, other than the sheer will and determination that Coleen Pierre brought forward to be here, is hope,” said MacDonald. “I think that’s the one thing the Salvation Army serves, provides, and gives people at usually their lowest time.”
“I like to look at why we’re here today, at what we call a Dignity Breakfast, is about hope,” said Ruimy. “It’s about showing folks that each and every one of us can be in that situation.”
Breakfast was then served, after which it was time to hear from the two speakers ready to share their inspiring stories.
First up was Al Harvey, who happened to be a speaker at the very first Dignity Breakfast hosted back in 2012.
Harvey told how he suffered from crippling co-dependence and became a drug addict as his kids became teenagers and grew more independent. Then, when his son was only 23 years old, a bad drug deal resulted in the murder of Harvey’s child.
“We knew who the person was, and it took four years of an investigation to finally get enough evidence to charge the young man, who is still in prison,” explained Harvey.
“When I found out he was arrested finally, I took a year and was trying to get clean on my own, and I knew it was time to get my act together. I tried for a year and I couldn’t do it. I finally found my way to the Salvation Army in Maple Ridge. They took me in, and I was in the program within a week.”
After years of utilizing the Salvation Army’s resources, Harvey had made enough progress to enroll in a two-year diploma program at Douglas College to be a community mental health support worker.
He soon moved in with his daughter and grandson, whom he lived with for several years, bonding with them and repairing a relationship that had been damaged after years of personal and family struggles.
“When she [his daughter] lost her older brother, she also lost her father for four years. She doesn’t hold that against me, and I’ve regained her trust. And I don’t think I would have ever been able to do that if it wouldn’t have been for the support and structure that I got through the Salvation Army.”
Harvey now works as a program coordinator at Coast Mental Health and has lived in Maple Ridge since 2008.
Next to take the stage was Ron Nims, who is an Alberta man that had a rough start on life. Growing up in a foster home and having to deal with various forms of abuse, Nims resorted to drinking by age nine and start doing drugs by 13.
These problems continued to escalate as he got older until he reached rock bottom nearly a decade ago.
“In 2013, I found myself in a position where hope had pretty much vanished,” said Nims.
He persevered, however, and brought himself to the Salvation Army where he was able to receive the emotional and mental help he needed.
“I don’t need help learning how to get sober. I need help learning how to be happy when I’m sober.”
He requested a councillor to see, which the Salvation Army provided, and was able to complete their four-year program.
Nims now volunteers as a driver for the Salvation Army and participates in the kettle program every holiday season.
During the event, Macpherson also announced that the Salvation Army will be building a new facility to serve the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Although the project is still very much in the early phases, and a location has yet to be decided, Major Sheldon Feener, area commander for the B.C. south division of the Salvation Army, spoke about its importance.
“It’s a promise that we’re doing bigger and better things here because it’s needed,” said Feener.
The total amount of money raised at the event has yet to be announced.
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