By Lyonel Doherty
Like a fixture at the Oliver food bank, you can turn Jim Ouellette on, but you can’t really turn him off.
That was the inside joke at today’s ceremony at Valley First Credit Union where Ouellette won the
“Simple Generosity” award for his volunteer work.
Food bank treasurer Julie Van Dusen said Ouellette is very deserving of the award.
“They get many, many, many nominations so it’s really great that Jim was chosen to receive this honour.”
Ouellette also won $1,000 to give to the charity of his choice, and of course, he chose the food bank.
Valley First sent out an email to its members calling for nominations for top volunteers. So Pat and Jerry Monahan nominated Ouellette (for the second year in a row).
Pat, who is a volunteer at the food bank, said she noticed how hard Ouellette worked.
“He’s always there every day that we distribute food,” Pat said. “So he just did so much that I thought he was deserving of an award.”
Jerry said most of the food bank clients know Ouellette on a personal level.
Pat said what makes him so special is that he’s such a nice person. Jerry added it’s his humility. “He never asks for credit.”
Pat said Ouellette is the face of the Oliver food bank. In fact, even though Van Dusen is the new treasurer, people always want to give their donations to Ouellette, she noted.
Lara Kinvig, assistant branch manager of Valley First, said Simple Generosity has donated more than $342,000 to charities across B.C. In 2019, 40 local volunteers received $1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.
“Valley First is honoured to recognize Jim for his outstanding volunteer contributions in the community,” Kinvig said.
The man of the hour said he was very proud to receive the award for his volunteer work.
“I’ve enjoyed volunteering all of my life,” said Ouellette, who has been at the food bank for 12 years.
Ouellette said he was quite surprised that the Monahans nominated him, noting the couple has been very helpful at the food bank.
No longer the treasurer, Ouellette is content with being a board member, sharing the knowledge he developed over the years.
Ouellette thanked the local media for getting the word out and raising the awareness of the food bank and the demand.
Looking back, Ouellette said he has seen a lot of changes since he began working there. For example, the food bank was originally housed out of an old “milk shed” behind the pharmacy.
The food donations back then were just enough to get by on each week, he recalled.
They had a bit of cold storage then, but it didn’t work half the time, he pointed out.
Ouellette said the need in Oliver has always been there, but he hasn’t seen it grow significantly over the years. He noted they serve about 175 clients a week.