On a dark winter night, Roy Archer knocked on a basement suite door on Cherry Street. It swings open to reveal a young woman and three children scampering about. No furniture sits in the room.
“Merry Christmas,” is all he says when he hands her the envelope. He walks back into the quiet, unlit street. But the silence is broken by the young woman’s voice searching for him, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
In her hands was a $300 cheque for food.
Archer is the president of the Mission Elks Club, an organization that supports several groups in the community. He is also still happily helping out with this year’s Easter Egg Hunt in Fraser River Heritage Park on March 27.
In a supermarket, he once asked a child if they would attend the hunt that he and the Mission Elks had organized for 25 years.
When the child’s mother remarked that she used to go as a kid, Archer realized that he’d been at it for too long.
His hair still has all the volume, but it’s almost white. He easily wedges a large basket of chocolate eggs under his arms, but he grunts when he pushes open the Elk hall door.
The Elks have been an institution in Mission since 1912, and their vision of community aid gave Archer and many others a venue to volunteer for many years. Archer has been a member since the ’80s.
Food concessions are a large part of the Elks’ budgets. Even on weekends, Archer and others would wake up at 5 a.m. to get food prepped at events. Once, in the heat of the day, Archer was outside boiling corn, and Mayor Randy Hawes walked by and had to ask, “You still at this, Archer?”
He says that it’s time for new people to step in. The torch is harder to carry now, “Especially in this economy,” he says. People have bigger trade-offs and are more preoccupied with themselves. That doesn’t necessarily mean people are more selfish, but merely that it’s hard to find the time to volunteer. As such, Archer says service clubs are going downhill.
Archer has been retired from the grocery business for a while. Now, when he’s not doing things with the Elks – which is mostly all he does – he’s tending his garden.
He has a bunch of lumber in his yard. So when an envelope from the municipality arrived in his mailbox, he was afraid that the District was finally telling him to clean up. He opened it.
In his hands – a nomination for the District’s community lifetime achievement award.
An award he so deservingly won.
It will be presented to him, and other winners, at the 2016 Community Service Awards Ceremony taking place Thursday, April 7 at 7 p.m. in the Clarke Theatre at Heritage Park Centre - 33700 Prentis Ave.