Vital People: Meet Abkhazi Garden’s inspiring 81-year-old volunteer handyman

Vital People: Meet Abkhazi Garden's inspiring 81-year-old volunteer handyman
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From building a new gate to repairing fences and fixing leaks, Jim Sharp’s handyman skills are in high demand at Victoria’s Abkhazi Garden.

“I kind of treat this place as my own, not that I own it or anything, but this is the way I’ve always been,” the 81-year-old volunteer handyman explains. “I have something that needs to be repaired in my own house or yard, I fix it and that’s the same when I walk around here.”

Jim began volunteering at Abkhazi — the garden that love built — more than eight years ago as a gardener.

“Then one day, they asked if I could maybe build a bench to house all these plants that we have,” Jim explains. “And I said, ‘well, yeah, why don’t I make three?’ and when I showed up with the tables, they looked at them and they said, ‘could you make me seven more?’ and that was the end of my gardening career at Abkhazi.”

Small jobs, and big ones, have kept Jim — who comes to volunteer every Tuesday — busy building and fixing things ever since.

“Up at the little summer house, they had a table that was attached to the summer house that had rotted and disappeared so I gathered up all the little pieces of the rotten table and put them together then built them a new table,” Jim says.

“Jim is so awesome!” says Abkhazi Garden site manager and volunteer coordinator Cherie Miltimore. “He does so much for the garden and he’s very modest about it. But there almost isn’t anything he doesn’t do for us.”

And that’s why Abkhazi, which couldn’t operate without dozens of dedicated volunteers, is recognizing Jim for the vital contributions he’s made.

“One of the things Jim has done is save this place an awful lot of money!” Cherie explains. “The other day, I had a plumber in to stop some water going to an old water heater. It was going to be $800 and I turned to Jim and said, ‘Ah, we’re not gonna be able to do it.’ And he said he could do it for $1,000. Well, he was joking. He did it for free, of course. So he’s just been so good for us.”

For Jim, helping out is just what he does, and his favourite project is whatever he’s working on next.

“I just keep looking for what needs to be done next,” Jim laughs. “I enjoy building something I’ve never done before, and I’ve often run into projects here that I have no idea how to fix it or build something new around it. And so it’s always a challenge and I enjoy doing that.”

READ MORE: Vital People: Long-time Abkhazi Garden volunteers retire

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