We’ve only profiled less than a handful of volunteer teams, and when a Community Response Network (CRN) flags a dynamic duo in their community for us, we are all ears!
Alex Hobart and Mike MacDougall form the “wonder-team” of the Fraser Lake CRN. Their superpowers include driving long distances safely, transporting residents to and from medical appointments, including day and overnight surgeries, and being available to do just about anything (and everything) to help the community’s most vulnerable residents.
With Mike, we talked about his long career in forestry, allergies, dogs, family, and how he got the nickname “Mr. Mike”. Alex shared stories of survival, new beginnings, and overcoming adversity time and time again. Despite pinched nerves, bad backs, and lingering injuries, the two show up every day without fail.
Each man has an amazing life story on how they arrived in Fraser Lake and working with Autumn Services, the host agency for the Fraser Lake CRN.
We are beyond thrilled to introduce you to Alex and Mike, our outstanding volunteers for the month of April.
Tell our readers a little something about yourself.
Alex: My full name is Alexander Hobart. I was named after my grandfather. I’ve worked in everything from mining, security, autobody work and painting, in smelters, and all the trades that are needed to build log houses. Work has taken me all over the province: Prince George, the lower mainland, Tumbler Ridge. (I was very good at autobody work and painting cars. A few of my customers have won car awards!) I also love psychology and went to school for it at Kwantlen College (before it became a university) for a few years after my divorce when I was 36 years old. I’ve also taken courses in law, forensics, accounting, and criminology. In 2015, I decided to study psychology and physics at the University of Northern BC in Prince George. (I was three credits away from earning my doctorate.) I find people very interesting.
Personally, I’ve also been through a lot: drinking, prescription drug use, assault, divorce, depression, multiple suicide attempts. A serious car accident in 2001 left me disabled and with chronic pain from arthritis. I’ve lost everything a couple of times fighting the legal system. The last time, I nearly lost all my money to a housing scam.
My mother was also a survivor of residential schools. She is Nlaka’Pamux First Nations. I was given her diaries and I learned that she and her siblings were kidnapped from their home when they were very young (my mother was six years old), and forced into residential schools where they were physically and sexually abused.
I’m 61 years old today. I could have grown up to be hateful, but I want to be like my dad, who was a gentleman. I learned that the more life beats you down, the more you need to help others.
Mike: Between the two of us, Alex is the talker! Alex and I are also one year and two weeks apart in age. I’m 62 years old and semi-retired. I come from Terrace where I worked in the forestry industry for 42 years. I was also heavily involved in the Lions Club where I was past president. I have awards for different types of community work, which I love because you get to meet people!
What brought you to Fraser Lake and Autumn Services?
A: I was living in Abbotsford, supporting my brother through his divorce and building log houses. I was doing roofing, sanding, electrical work – anything and everything a log house needs to work. When COVID hit, my environment was becoming unhealthy for me. I decided to move back to Fraser Lake. I worked at the mines here years ago and came back last Spring. I came to Autumn Services needing peace and help. I was in dire straits. They connected me to support right away and it saved my life.
Once on my feet again, I needed to find my purpose. I’ve worked all my life and enjoyed it. Volunteering with Autumn Services filled this need 100%. I can socialize and help others and I love it. It’s been a great year!
Since moving here, I haven’t had a drop of alcohol and I quit painkillers cold turkey. My dream is to move into a log cabin by a lake and have a couple of corgis.
M: The sawmill in Terrace shut down and my wife and I decided to move to Fraser Lake after that. Personally, I was looking for my niche. My wife Janet and I have been involved with Autumn Services since they first opened in early the 2000s. We would always drop in to see what was going on. We would socialize with others over coffee, and sometimes, the team here would ask us to do things for the centre. We decided to jump in and volunteer. I’m 100% with Autumn Services today. There was a time long before I met Alex, where grocery stores were shut down in Fraser Lake and people didn’t have cars. We would be driving people back and forth from Fraser Lake to Vanderhoof and Burns Lake so people could get supplies. It was making sure people were taken care of.
Janet also still volunteers, mostly with the food share program. She and another volunteer work together to make up food baskets and meals and Alex and I would deliver them. She also looks after appointments for certain clients, especially the frail and health compromised, making sure they get to their medical appointments. Sometimes she needs to travel to Prince George, which would involve working the day and then spending the night to ensure the person gets home safely.
Tell us how the two of you became a team.
M: At first, we worked separately. With the food program, Alex would do his deliveries, I would do mine, and then we would have coffee together. We realized it was more efficient to team up. Now when we make deliveries, one of us would scan the area while the other person delivered the food. We would keep an eye out for things like broken windows or anything that would tell us someone needs a little extra help. We never do anything on site: we observe and then report back to [CRN Coordinator] Elaine (Storey) if we see something out of the ordinary.
A: We’ve been working together now for a year. I love working with Mike!
Describe some of the great work you do.
M: There’s a team that prepares soup and buns twice a week for seniors and elders, and we deliver them. We’re swamped on Fridays, so double-teaming works well. We keep each other company. When we drive people to appointments, we try our best to make them feel at ease and safe, especially if the person is frail.
A: We also drive people to appointments, pick up prescriptions, do minor repairs and housekeeping, painting, small construction projects, and light moving. (My background in trades is helpful here!) There was one time I offered to house sit for someone whose father was dying and they needed a break from caregiving.
M: We drive people to Vanderhoof and Prince George quite often. Vanderhoof’s hospital does small medical procedures, while the hospital in Prince George is a hub for major surgeries. Sometimes, especially with drives to the hospital in Prince George, we’re never too sure if we need to stay overnight so we can get the person home to Fraser Lake. We always have a game plan for something like this.
It sounds like you’re on the road a lot!
A: There was one time, it was an emergency, where Mike and I drove from Fraser Lake to Kelowna and back to get a lady to a surgery. She had missed her flight.
M: We were on the highway for 22 hours (roundtrip), but that’s part of the enjoyment, to be there for someone. (We learned that it’s also hard to find a restroom or a cup of coffee at 2 AM when everything closes at 10 PM!) Everyone dropped everything to help this person: it didn’t matter. We needed her to get to her medical appointment. We’re like a family…maybe more so. Driving is definitely different in the pandemic and we make sure we are wearing masks and being safe. We have a grocery store open in town now, so our driving is mainly on getting people to medical appointments.
What the best part about volunteering here?
A: Helping people motivates me. Here at Autumn Services, the people we help are not victims. They overcame or are in the process of overcoming ridiculous things no one should experience. Volunteering here gives us an opportunity to do the right things in a society that uses and abuses people. It has matured me and helped me choose how to behave. We have to care for others…we have to.
M: It’s a great place and a giving bunch of people, so volunteering comes easily. My wife, our little dog (at the time), and I were in a serious car accident two years ago. Our truck rolled over at least four times when it was hit by another truck. We shouldn’t have walked away from the accident, but we did. It’s given me a new lease on life, and I want to continue giving and be there for people as much as I can. Making sure people are taken care of: it has been my goal for years and years. I enjoy doing it.
Why Alex and Mike are our Outstanding Volunteers of the Month
Elaine Storey, CRN Coordinator and Executive Director of Autumn Services, says: “They are here every day. These two guys are like bookends. When they do long-distance trips, they go together. They do the food share together and they spend most of their day at the center, just chatting and talking about cars and tools and stuff. They are open to doing anything and everything we ask of them. We’re very lucky to have them as part of the family.”
 The approximate driving time between Fraser Lake and Kelowna is 10-12 hours one way on the highway.
(Header photo: Alex Hobart (left) and Mike MacDougall (right) – a.k.a. Elf #1 and Elf #2 – safely delivering holiday cheer amidst pandemic protocols last year. Photo source: Autumn Services)