Much has been written about Sally Anderson through 46 years in Port Alberni, not only for the fact that she has become a symbol of volunteerism in our community, but because she has displayed dedication, compassion and enthusiasm for the cause of helping others.
At the time when our community and others in the country are experiencing so much uncertainty, we look back at a woman who truly represents the good that our human environment has to offer. This is an inspirational example that we need in these days of anxiety.
Known as the “Flag Lady” for wearing colourful costumes and waving a large Canadian flag at the tourist trains passing by her house backyard, Anderson is known for greeting passengers, local and international, on their way to the McLean Mill. Anderson always displayed tons of energy and enthusiasm when the trains were running, representing a welcome spirit of this community. And, by doing so, adding a truly unique experience to visitors.
Although our train is not running to the historic mill these days, our own “Flag Lady” continues her active life trek to serving Port Alberni.
In February 2016 Sally was recognized with one of the highest awards by then Governor General David Johnson, the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, in appreciation for her continued commitment and dedication to assist her community. Anderson was recognized for her coordination of programs such as “NeighbourLink” and the “Read and Feed Breakfast Program.” In 2018 she was bestowed with the Port Alberni Citizen of the Year Award at the annual Community Excellence Awards, and people at every table waved flags when she received her award.
She has coordinated her volunteer programs and recruited dozens of volunteers throughout the years. The “Read and Feed” program was created to deliver hundreds of meals to elementary school children in the Valley, a job done by a crew of many volunteers.
“As we go trudging through this virus crisis, we are ‘treading water’ for awhile, as we wait for schools to reopen so we can begin the 14th year of serving breakfasts to our Port Alberni elementary students in all six schools,” she says. “It’s going to look very different next school season, pared down to perhaps only a few days a week instead of five.”
The program is in need of recruiting new volunteers. “We have lost many volunteers and need help from anyone to come butter toast and read to the children.”
We should also point out that Anderson carried out several other volunteer activities, including helping at the Christian Life School, as a secretary for 10 years, (from the 1980s to the 1990s); and as a member of the Canada Day Parade Committee, a position she had held for many years.
Anderson, who was born in Windsor, Ontario, has been married to Richard Anderson for more than 50 years, after “snatching” him from Disneyland, as she puts it, just before he ended his four-year tour of duty in the US Marine Corps. That stint included 28 months aboard the USS Ranger aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.
For years he has also been a volunteer figure in Port Alberni, known for the giving of his time to seniors; a volunteer driver; the Hospital Auxiliary, and as a clogging dancer and instructor. He is also seen at the Multiplex Arena assisting at the Alberni Valley Bulldogs junior hockey games. Richard and Sally are the proud parents of two children and three grandsons.
Rumours are out that there might be two Santa trains this Christmas, that run from the station just to the paper mill, and back again.
That would mean that the colourful “Flag Lady” will be back!