Pat Bouchard has turned to her own life experiences as influence for her volunteer work in the Alberni Valley.
One of eight children, Bouchard said she always had food. It wasn’t until her granddaughter was in high school and she met one of her classmates who often went hungry that Bouchard truly realized there are people in the Valley who can’t say the same. “Once you are confronted with something like this you start looking around,” says Bouchard, who is now involved with the high school breakfast program at ADSS.
“Lots of kids that go to that school don’t have proper food. They say we feed about 400 kids a day.”
Bouchard, who has lived in the Alberni Valley for most of her life, said she got involved with the breakfast program before the new high school opened—even though she’s not a morning person. “I’m a Wednesday plaid girl,” she says. “We wear plaid shirts and we double-toast the bagels.”
Bouchard discovered the breakfast program through a newspaper article. She spotted a friend of hers named as a helper and called her up. The two had met as young mothers at the local bowling alley, where they bowled on Thursday mornings. “Our kids were all little babies,” she recalls. Four of them joined in the early 1980s, then grew to a group of seven—Bouchard, Shirley Kozslowski, Connie Roberts, Janet Parker, Donna Cyr, Jennifer Price and Eleanor Jordan—that still gets together once or twice a year.
“We have seven members. Most of us, the nucleus of the team, lived in Cameron Heights.”
Although they don’t bowl anymore they are still in contact with one another. “We went bowling once but it was too much,” Bouchard says, smiling. “You don’t remember the quirks you had. Mine was turning the ball around and around until it felt right.”
The team dissolved after their kids grew older and their lives got busier. “Some of them still live in Cameron Heights,” she said.
Bouchard is also a member of the PAGO Grannies, although not as active as when she first joined the group. She joined the geneology club 20 years ago and is still active with them.
She also joined the Beaver Creek Community Centre’s association two years ago—even though she doesn’t live in Beaver Creek. “One of the ladies I do breakfast club with does it. I said I’d love to go to a meeting. I started meeting some of the people there and they are a lot of fun,” says Bouchard.
She lived in Beaver Creek when she was a young child, right after her family came to Port Alberni from Vancouver. “I would have been four. I have a lot of crazy memories of Beaver Creek. My father had one of the first televisions in Port Alberni. My uncle used to come over and watch hockey games.”
Because their grandmother was American, the men cheered for U.S. teams like the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
“I used to sit out on the porch and my job was to hold the aerial,” Bouchard recalls.
“I could peek inside the window and decided I liked Montreal Canadiens.”
She remembers her mother walking all the way to Woodward’s at the top of Third Avenue from Beaver Creek, pushing a buggy all the way.
Bouchard has raised three children here: a son who now lives in Maple Ridge, a daughter living on Haida Gwaii and another daughter who lives in Port Alberni. She also has seven granddaughters.