Mother and Son duo bond on their daily walks by picking up litter

Port Alberni, BC – The morning began with a downpour of rain, a clear sign that marks the beginning of autumn in the Valley. But, by 1 p.m. the sun broke through the gray clouds making it perfect afternoon for a walk.

On Oct. 24 Ha-Shilth-Sa met with mother and son duo, Agnes and Chancellor Jack as they prepared to head out for their daily walk. From 10th Avenue and Redford Street, they planned to walk for roughly an hour towards West Coast General Hospital on one side of the road, and then back toward 10th Avenue on the other side. The whole way they would be picking up litter from the side of the road and talking.

The pair go out for a minimum of one hour each day and are well-known across town as they walk together, picking up litter.

“We just started picking up garbage, we didn’t even talk about it.” said Jack.

They often spent their time together being active outdoors, said Jack. Since September, their daily walks became something that would allow them to give back to the community.

Jack said that she’s lived in Port Alberni for more than 35 years.

“Might as well give [people] a better impression [of] our town,” said Jack. “When they're driving into town it's gonna be nice and clean.”

The two say they often find work gloves, takeout food packaging, cigarette butts, and coffee cups scattered along the roads.

They have walked River Road a few times now. When Jack drives down River Road she admires how good it looks without litter.

“We even notice when new litter is left behind,” said Jack.

Jack has been through hardships in recent years including the loss of her daughter, and then being hit by a vehicle only weeks afterward. And then there was the misplacement of her daughter's head stone by the cemetery. Jack also underwent surgery to treat diverticulitis which has been difficult for her to adjust to.

Jack said in the hospital she struggled to cope with the life changes that accompany her surgery. She worried about the care and adjustments she would have to undergo at home.

She had dark thoughts, and contemplated suicide.

Normally her late-daughter would have helped care for her through recovery.

Jack said that she felt very supported by her son through the whole process as she recovers from surgery.

“This, here, really helps release a lot of stress,” said Jack. “Walking and talking… is the best kind of medication,” said Jack.

Jack had been walking every day for about three years before her surgery. Afterwards, she couldn’t walk, and struggled to sleep. It took about three months before Jack started going for walks again.

“My legs felt like sledgehammers,” said Jack. “I didn't like it, but I kept on going every day.”

Because of some of the major changes in her life she has contemplated her purpose and has shifted her attitude, said Jack.

“It's been a real trial. I've been challenged quite a bit and I keep on standing back up on my two feet,” said Jack.

“I mean, not only picking up garbage - it’s doing some sort of good deed for someone every single day,” she continued. “Even if it's just to put a smile on their face and make a difference for someone because you know, it definitely does for me.”

The pair occasionally use the money collected from recycling to treat each other to food.

Their walks are something they look forward to and a way to spend quality time together. Jack said that she enjoys their walks because it has helped them open up to one another.

Chancellor Jack said that they walk about the same amount every day, and that he looks forward to it.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Jack is scheduled for reversal surgery in December. She hopes that the reversal will be successful, and her quality of life improves.

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Agnes and Chancellor Jack walk from 10th and Redford towards West Coast General Hospital picking up litter from the sides of the road.

Alexandra Mehl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa