JBCP: End of An Era: My life as a library volunteer

James Bay Community Project

By Peggie Law

JBCP library cake.jpg

In 1988, I retired from the British Columbia Government at the age of 61. It was time to visit my family all over the province and to improve my game of golf. But after a year, the excitement faded and I was at loose ends again. Someone suggested that I volunteer at the James Bay Community Project. I didn't know where this Project was, but I soon learned it was just across the street from my home, at the corner of Michigan and Parry Streets. I decided “in for penny, in for a pound” – and I crossed the street and volunteered my services.

I soon became involved in so many activities that my life became interesting again. My first job in as a volunteer was in the food distribution area. I was delighted to be at Thrifty Foods early every Tuesday and Friday morning, to trundle away two shopping carts with day-old product for our free cupboard: the bread, the cakes, the cookies, buns and pies that were enjoyed by those less fortunate.

Soon two days a week was not keeping me busy, so I began other phases of the volunteer service. As I had a car, I was soon driving others to doctors’ appointments, to the reading room for sight-impaired seniors or any place where that service was needed, often with wheelchairs or walkers stuffed in my trunk. I spent one afternoon signing up patients for the new medical clinic that was about to be established.

My days were so full, I began to feel needed again. An opening came up for a receptionist for a program to help divorced fathers and another for single women with their new babies. These programs were in the evenings, but volunteers were needed, so I took a turn. At one point, I even took a stab at making soup for another project but I was not familiar with such great quantities of soup (even though I had raised six children!), so I only lasted a few days.

Finally, in 1992, a volunteer was needed in the library and that it where I found my great love. I think everyone in James Bay must be familiar with this library. Volunteers filled three two-hour shifts a day for the five days the library was open at JBCP (as well as extras for emergencies!) It became a community meeting place, a quiet place to browse for books, to sit in an easy chair and spend a short time engrossed in a tale while waiting for a doctor's appointment, or just to chat with the volunteer on duty. Some patrons became good friends of mine and the volunteer I worked with, Justina, became a good friend indeed! Justina and I worked together for more than 20 years, she at the OUT desk and I at the RETURNS.

But everything comes to an end: There’s a new Greater Victoria Public Library in James Bay and our little haven closed at the end of February. There was a special tea on Valentine’s Day to celebrate library volunteers at JBCP where friends had a chance to visit and enjoy a piece of cake.

Poem: Elders Torment

Then and Now: 642 Battery Street

Then and Now: 642 Battery Street