These days, Ruby and Laurin Trudel can be frequently spotted volunteering at The Olive Tree in Lloydminster, where they assist with the soup kitchen.
Ten years ago, that was not the case. In 2005, they were creating Food Rescue (Yellowknife), the first volunteer organization of its kind in the Northwest Territories.
And on April 14, 2015, the Trudels were in Ottawa, receiving the Caring Canadian Award from Gov. Gen. David Johnston. The award recognizes individuals that have made substantial volunteers contributions to their community, and has been around since 1995.
“It was regal, Rideau Hall is Canada’s version of Buckingham Palace,” said Ruby. “The doors opened, everyone was standing and applauding as we filed in. There was a string orchestra playing, it was very grand.”
Ruby is from Lloydminster, but moved to Yellowknife with husband Laurin, an Edmonton-native, in 1998 to accommodate his employment. Seven years later, the couple created Food Rescue (Yellowknife), which Ruby says she conceived while attending a social services meeting about homelessness.
“The general theme for all of the organizations was how underfunded they were,” she said. “As I was sitting there hearing all this, I felt a touch on my shoulder and inside my head I heard, ‘Are you listening? You can do something about this.’”
And so she and Laurin did. Along with other local volunteers, the Trudels operated Yellowknife’s first food rescue program, which still operates to this day.
From the program’s inception until the time they relocated to Lloydminster nearly two years ago, the Trudels drove to Yellowknife’s three grocery stores once a day, at least five days a week. The two collected food items that couldn’t be sold in stores because of partial damage to the item or its packaging.
The Trudels would repair the items, repackage them or remove the inadequate portions of the items before delivering them to organizations that provided food to the less fortunate.
“We had about 15 (organizations) that we went to occasionally, there were five that we went to every day,” Laurin said.
Over a five-year period, the Trudels say they gleaned over one million pounds of food.
“We knew that there was a lot of good food that was going to the landfill. And here are organizations that could benefit from that food, there just needed to be that bridge,” Ruby said.
The Trudels, who are now seniors, were two of 49 people in Ottawa to receive a Caring Canadian Award from the Governor General of Canada. Ruby and Laurin were nominated individually, though they’re not sure why. And while they received individual awards, Laurin says it took a team of over 25 volunteers to develop Food Rescue (Yellowknife) into the organization it has become.
“By the time we received the award, we felt like we were receiving it on behalf of the whole organization and all of its volunteers, past and present,” said Laurin.
“We’re only a representation of volunteerism in every community,” added Ruby. “Lloydminster is a wonderful community for volunteers, so I don’t think that we did anything that other volunteers haven’t done, it’s that we were just selected to represent volunteerism in Canada.”
Since relocating to Lloydminster, which they did so that Ruby could spend more time with her mother, the Trudels have maintained contact with their former organization, but are no longer actively involved with it. After representing Food Rescue (Yellowknife) in Rideau Hall, however, their legacies in Yellowknife need no rescuing.