If you drive to Perth via the Franktown highway on any given weekday morning, chances are you have seen Rick Gooderham trying to hitch a ride into town. Five days a week, rain or shine (or snow) Rick makes his way from Kelly’s Trailer Park to the Table CFC using his only mode of transportation- his thumb.
Rick is currently both a volunteer and participant in our programs. His story from participant to invaluable volunteer is exactly what a success story looks like for us. Inspired by Rick and his dedication, the staff at the Table nominated Rick for the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award and we are thrilled to announce that Rick has been chosen to receive this honour. The Caring Canadian Award, which was established by the former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc, recognizes individuals who volunteer their time to help others and to build a smart and caring nation. Upon finding the letter in his mail box, Rick took one look at it and thought “Oh dear, what did I do now?” Now, full of pride, Rick has been showing off his letter from Rideau Hall to everyone at the centre; so much so that we have made him a photocopy so that he can preserve the original and have it framed.
Around the Table Rick volunteers to do the jobs that no one else is keen on doing. In the summer he mows the lawn, trims the hedges, sweeps the driveway and keeps the yard and walkway clean. In the winter he shovels and salts the walkway and ramp and year round he helps with the garbage, recycling and compost. When asked why he volunteers at the Table Rick says “you guys treat me like a human being, like family. You do such a good job here; it is heartwarming to see what happens here”.
Rick is a stand-out participant volunteer whose spirit for sharing and inclusiveness is inspirational. Rick is always the first one to introduce himself to a new participant and takes every newcomer (including the new Executive Director) under his wing until they get the hang of things, making them feel welcomed and engaged.
At first Rick came to the Good Food Bank for emergency food supplies, and then began to take part in Community Meals. It did not take much to convince him to join the Wednesday drop-in kitchen and, later, the seniors’ cooking group. He joined the Social Justice Club and held his own in demanding discussions about human rights, injecting the perspective of someone who has firsthand experience of poverty.
As the Table made the transition from food bank to food centre, we changed more than the just the physical space we use and the programming and services we offer, we changed the way we operate. We have always relied heavily on volunteers in order to provide services, however, an outdated volunteer policy did not allow for participants to volunteer at the centre. As we moved from a model of charity to one of solidarity an important step was to involve the very people who participate in programs in as many ways as possible. We knew that many of the people coming to the Table were interested in giving back in some way and sure enough once we changed the policy participants began applying to work alongside staff and existing volunteers. Rick was one of the first to submit an application. Rick gives back more than he receives from The Table and we’re thankful every time he walks through the door.