When his young son played Bradford Minor Hockey, Alvin Belanger was involved in the sport as a volunteer trainer.
Now that the kids are grown and he has retired, Belanger focusses his time, energy and the skills he honed through 36 years of working for Ontario Ministry of Finance on his roles in two charities.
One is the Helping Hand Food Bank, Bradford’s local volunteer-run food bank, where Belanger serves as Treasurer. He is also a volunteer driver, and its “muscle” when needed.
“I pick up the milk, and whatever,” he said, often filling his vehicle with items purchased at local grocery stores with donated funds, or collecting food drive donations.
Belanger is also deeply committed to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a “charitable organization that helps people,” Belanger said.
Founded in 1833, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a lay organization affiliated with the Catholic Church – although its charitable reach extends beyond a single faith, to serve all those in need.
The society quietly steps in, providing gift cards for food, “occasional rent,” and delivering donations of furnishings and household to those struggling to get re-established in the community.
Belanger is president of the York-Simcoe Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, an area that includes Aurora, Newmarket, Georgina, Schomberg, Alliston, Tottenham, and Bradford West Gwillimbury.
He was introduced to the charity by his father-in-law, Tony Caruso, about 30 years ago – and has volunteered his time, ever since.
“It’s like the food bank,” he said, “just helping people” - quietly, without fanfare or hoopla.
Belanger’s commitment to his faith includes a long-time involvement in the Knights of Columbus, a not-for-profit Catholic men’s fraternal organization.
He acknowledges the Knights used to be more active in the community than they are at present. At one time, the Knights prepared and delivered Christmas hampers to those experiencing economic hardship – a function now taken on by the food bank.
The Knights also hosted a variety of fundraisers, Basketball Free-Throws for kids, and an annual Spelling Bee for elementary school students, that was Belanger’s own special project for about 10 years. But interest has fallen off, and for the last couple of years, the Bee has been cancelled.
The Knights of Columbus have adapted to the times. Ten members are now registered as volunteers helping out with Bingo in Newmarket – one of 45 charitable and non-profit organizations that volunteer at Bingo World Newmarket to raise funds, and share the proceeds.
The money raised by the local Knights will come back to Bradford, to charities that include Community and Home Assistance to Seniors (CHATS), and the Helping Hand Food Bank, said Belanger.
He doesn’t take a shift at the Bingo hall. Instead, Belanger uses his experience where it can do the most good, helping the Knights of Columbus on the accounting side.
The food bank, the Knights, St. Vincent de Paul - it all keeps him busy.
“You can’t sit at home. You’ve got to go out” and help your community, he said.