Hap Ralla serves tea at a Sunshine Club Christmas event in December 2019. (ORLANDO DELANO/Special to the News)

VALLEY SENIORS: Sunshine Servers serve up a good time in Port Alberni

The group, formed in 2004, has volunteered hundreds of hours in the community



“Volunteers, young and old, have the satisfaction of helping others while enjoying the benefits of staying active and connected to their communities.”

That’s the example given by Lionel Cyr and more than a dozen men who give their time to assist others. Yes, we are talking about the “Sunshine Servers,” a group that was formed and founded more than 15 years ago. Since then, they have volunteered hundreds of hours in the community.

“One summer day, during a competition hosted by our local Dragon Boat rowers at Sproat Lake, a good friend and active volunteer, Cecile Smith, suggested to me that the Sunshine Club was in need of volunteers to serve the tables at various community functions,” Cyr recalled.

“Well, I thought it was a good idea and for that reason, soon after I got hold of some guys that I knew and asked them to give the seniors a hand. In no time we got started!”

Cyr (soon to be 85 years old) took the time to sit with us at the annual Echo Sunshine Club Christmas “Special Events” program to talk about the group he founded in 2004. He told us that since the group’s beginnings, the “Sunshine Servers” have assisted at dozens of events including family teas, bazaars, anniversary celebrations and more—not only at the Echo Centre, but at seniors homes in the Valley, as well as providing ushering services to high school fundraising events whose funds benefit the community directly.

“Depending on the event, we get between two to 10 helpers,” Cyr said. “My members are always available and ready to serve with lots of enthusiasm.”

When asked about the classy outfit the members wear during their working time, he says that when the late Sam McKimm’s singing group “Troubadours” dismantled, he asked the members to allow the newly formed server group to use their red cummerbunds and vests they wore during their performances. With no objection, the Troubadours passed on their outfits to the volunteers. Later on the vests were changed to black and black bow ties.

“Some people called us ‘the men in black,’” Cyr laughed.

Entering a new decade, the popular “Sunshine Servers” continue giving their time for others’ enjoyment while having a good time themselves, serving up tea, coffee and goodies at every event they take part in. Their presence is not only helpful to the attendees and organizers, but it also enhances the event’s appearance.

In recognition for their contribution to the community, especially the senior population, the “Sunshine Servers” have been presented with multiple certificates of appreciation by several Alberni Valley community groups.

“This group of volunteers are great ambassadors for the Echo Sunshine Club,” said Richard Anderson, President of the Sunshine Club.


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The Sunshine Servers, prepping for the Sunshine Club’s annual Christmas party, include: Jack Colmer, Joe van Kooten, Hap Ralla, Bob Bessette, Daryl Holt, and Ken Bradley. Sitting, (left to right): Lionel Cyr, Gordon Myers and Tracy Ault. (ORLANDO DELANO/Special to the News)

Ken Bradley of the Sunshine Servers pauses to fill a cup for one of the participants of a Sunshine Club meal. (ORLANDO DELANO/Special to the News)

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