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The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week: Rick McAlpine

Cathy Dobson It’s no surprise that when you phone Rick McAlpine to tell him he’s The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week, he’s busy volunteering with a literacy student.
Rick McAlpine
Rick McAlpine. (Submitted photo)

Cathy Dobson

It’s no surprise that when you phone Rick McAlpine to tell him he’s The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week, he’s busy volunteering with a literacy student.

Rick was nominated for this week’s column by no less than three local organizations where he has volunteered for years and become the “go-to-guy” at Rebound, Literacy Lambton and Pathways Health Centre for Children.

Long before he retired from his job as a lab tech at Imperial Oil and started volunteering regularly for those three organizations, Rick was a member of the Sarnia Elks Lodge, including a stint as the Grand Exalted Ruler.

“I always thought Rick was ‘our Rick,’” laughed Tracy Pound, executive director at Lambton Literacy. “And then I found out he’s also Rebound’s Rick and Pathways’ Rick.

“He never says no and he never shows up without a smile. That’s why we want to honour him as an exceptional volunteer during National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 16-22).”

Rick, a 63-year-old bachelor, says he carefully chose where he wanted to volunteer after retiring in 2015.

“I just like helping people,” he said. “At Literacy Lambton, I helped a student go from not being able to turn on a computer to being able to create an Excel spread sheet.

“That feels good. I get a lot out of it,” he said. “Besides, I’d go absolutely nuts if I stayed home all week.”

He generally contributes three to six hours a week to each agency. During the pandemic, when most volunteers opted out, Rick adapted to COVID-19 restrictions by helping to design online drivers ed preparation material that he taught virtually to Literacy Lambton learners. 

“I even did some tutoring over the phone,” he said. 

As restrictions lifted at Pathways, Rick was one of the first to jump back into volunteering, said Julie Ingles, Pathways’ supervisor of support services.

“Rick is young at heart and does everything he can to help the community,” she said. “Hands down, he’s just an all-round fantastic guy.”

He spends many hours wrapping gifts for Pathways’ Secret Santa program. In any given year, he estimates he wraps as many as 1,000 presents. He’s also happy to jump into the pool and help with the pre-school swim, said Julie. 

“He works bingos and sells tickets to our events,” she said. “Volunteering and helping children and youth is a real passion for him and it shows.”

Rick’s been particularly busy this spring at Rebound where he’s helping prepare the new ReFound Consignment Store for its May 5 opening at 161 Lochiel St.

He’s been sorting and pricing clothing for months now. “I’ve learned more about women’s fashion in the last six months than I learned my entire life,” he joked.   

“Whenever you ask for help, Rick is always the first to put up his hand,” said Nicole McLean, Rebound’s volunteer co-ordinator. “He’s a busy man and we appreciate him.”

The extent of that gratitude was reflected this past Tuesday during a Volunteer Appreciation Night to honour the good work volunteers do for the Sarnia-Lambton community.

Rick was honoured by Rebound, Pathways and Literacy Lambton, and called on by all three groups to accept a formal thank-you for his exceptional volunteerism.

Who do you consider an exceptional person in Sarnia-Lambton?  Nominate someone you know and explain why you think they should be The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week. Email [email protected].




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