- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

My friend Bruce died this week. You likely knew Bruce if you were a regular A&P shopper. He worked there for years.

I met Bruce when he came to help with the Good Food Box, and then returned faithfully every month for most of the 15 years I was the co-ordinator.

Bruce was the one who figured out that it would be easier to pack the Good Food Boxes in cardboard boxes so our customers wouldn't need to unpack and repack them to take them home, or have a neighbour deliver it to them. In the weeks leading up to the monthly packing day, Bruce would collect cartons in his big old van, packing them in around son Dan's wheelchair if necessary. On packing day, he'd toss them down the stairs into the basement of Central Westside Church, and then arrange them ready to be pulled down the packing line on wheely carts built by another volunteer. Sometimes I didn't see him in between Good Food Boxes, but he was usually the first person I saw every packing day.

Bruce's wife Darlene died last year. You might know Darlene if you ever played bingo at the old bingo hall on 2nd Avenue. 

“Queen Darlene” was the one who noticed how crabby I got by the end of a packing day, and suggested we'd all be happier if she made lunch and we all ate together. And she was so right!  I learned so much at that Good Food Box lunch table - often a dozen or more of us, all of us volunteers from all over the city - and I might never have had that opportunity without Darlene. And she even did the dishes!

You may know Bruce's brother Gord too. He worked for years at the MTO and built up his huge trading card collection at a local hobby shop and on the library internet.

I first met Gord at the Good Food Box.  He helped in many ways, not the least of which was to sweep the floor at the end of the packing day so we could leave the space as we found it for the good people of Central Westside, and particularly for their patient custodian Pat.

When I first opened Around the Sound Local Food Market on 1st Ave West, Gord would stop in after his downtown chores were done and help me close up – carrying in the heavy sandwich board from the sidewalk and making sure I'd turned off the “open” sign and locked up securely. When the store moved up to 6th St E., Gord would still drop in to help on his way to or from the library. Sometimes he'd walk me home – we only live a few blocks from each other.

I say that Bruce and Darlene and Gord are my friends. Not the Christmas card or dinner party kind. More like the Sesame Street kind – the people you talk to whenever you meet, who are happy to catch you up on their family news and hopes and are genuinely interested in yours. Those conversations that you leave with a smile on your face, These are the people who make a neighbourhood out of a city.

In the words of the song - “These are the people in your neighbourhood...the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street...the people that you meet each day.”

I am forever grateful they have been in my neighbourhood.





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