As the snow picked up Thursday, Les Girard set out, clearing his Nanaimo neighbours’ sidewalks without anyone asking and free of charge because he knew it would help people who were struggling.
“One way or another we gotta look out for each other,” Girard told CHEK News.
“Les is the best guy I’ve ever known. He’s my next door neighbour and no one’s more helpful,” said neighbour Ariel Demot. “Like, I’m supposed to be asleep right now, he’s coming to do my walkway, he knows I have to work at 11 tonight.”
The Nanaimo man and his snowblower cleared blocks of his downtown neighbourhood Wednesday, and it was being buried all over on Thursday.
“Blocks and blocks, I spent just over 10 hours yesterday clearing all over the place,” said Girard.
Girard said he hoped his volunteerism would make conditions safer for the many pedestrians who use the downtown’s sidewalks. Pedestrians like Kylie Hancock, who CHEK News found walking over Girard’s freshly cleared work on Thursday.
“I think that’s awesome, yeah. That’s an awesome thing he’s doing,” said Hancock.
Once done on the sidewalks, Girard planned to turn his effort to an ice and snow packed cul-de-sac off Victoria Road that he said was getting worse by the second. Then, just as he was nearing it, a van found itself stuck in the snowy cul-de-sac, and Girard gave it a needed push.
“And this is why I’m trying to take care of my road and my community. It is a mess, it is a sheet of ice everywhere and we need to look out for each other as a community,” said Girard.
It was the same spirit that inspired Joyce McNeil to climb over snowbanks in Nanaimo on Thursday to bring homemade chicken soup and warm clothes to a Nanaimo warming centre.
“I made this soup last night and it’s too much for us so I thought I’d share with them,” McNeil told CHEK News outside of the Risebridge emergency warming centre on Prideaux Street.
“It’s so cold out. It’s cold for me, so I can’t imagine what they have to go through with nowhere to stay.”
According to Risebridge, over 100 people have brought in donations to their warming centres in Nanaimo and Qualicum Beach through the cold snap this week, as Vancouver Islanders reach out to help each other through this extreme weather and build a new sense of community with it.