Nelson Antoine organizes a food drive every Christmas because he knows first-hand what it’s like to be in need.
When he left the military in 1992 after 12 years of service, he had nothing.
“I didn’t have any money to do anything,” he said.
He turned to the Mustard Seed for food and a bus pass, and used that pass to get to a government office to apply for employment insurance and check job boards. He found himself interviewing for a job in the office on the spot.
“They said: ‘We’re looking for somebody who can speak different languages,” said Antoine, who speaks English, French, Spanish, Haitian Creole and a little Italian.
He worked there for about a year, before going back to school to study administration and management. After his studies, he got a job as a salesman at a car dealership, which suited him, because he likes to talk to people.
For the past five years, he has been collecting donations from his colleagues, sometimes as much as $1,700. He fills a truck with the food he buys with money donated and drives it to the Mustard Seed. It’s his way of giving back. “When I was down, I got help. So to anybody who now needs help, I’m capable of giving a little bit,” Antoine said.
His desire to give doesn’t stop after the holidays. Antoine works six days a week, and on his one day off, he volunteers to drive seniors who live alone and can’t get themselves to medical appointments or the supermarket. Sometimes, it’s just a drive to get them out of the house.
“They always try to steal a little bit of a conversation after the drive, because you can feel that they don’t want to go back in there and be alone again. Simply that makes me say: ‘Well, this is something needed,’ ” Antoine said.
The Mustard Seed receives donations from the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, which supports an annual Christmas dinner at the Bay Street Armoury for hundreds of people.
Last year, more than $308,000 was donated to the Christmas Fund, which has been raising money for people in need during the holiday season since 1956. The Salvation Army and Our Place also receive support from the Christmas Fund.
How to donate to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund
Please donate to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund. The fund assists individuals and families in need during the Christmas season. Here are ways to donate:
• Go to timescolonist.com/donate. That takes you to the Canada Helps website, which is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.
• Mail a cheque, payable to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund Society, to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria V8T 4M2.
• Use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Outside those hours, leave a message, we’ll call back.