Maple Ridge’s Leisa Hirvonen said it was a ‘cute’ Craigslist ad that brought a family from the Comox Valley into her life.
‘I think it read – Grandpa’s having a baby,” she recalled.
Courtenay’s Shelley Scurrah wrote the eye-catching snippet in January for a family she has come to care for very much.
Her upstairs neighbour, Pat – who has asked that his surname not be used – is a 60-year-old retiree taking care of his two young kids. He recently found out an older son’s girlfriend had given birth, and that the couple were going to be unable to take care of the newborn.
He decided to apply to the Ministry of Children and Family Development BC to act as guardian to the child. Soon after applying, things became even more difficult when the mother of his six and eight-year-old children passed away abruptly.
Knowing Pat had a lot to deal with, and was on a fixed pension, Scurrah wrote the ad hoping to appeal to the immediate community to donate some of the many things that are required to take care of a baby.
She said the people in the Comox Valley were incredibly helpful, but Hirvonen’s contributions were of particular note.
“At first I was taken aback and didn’t even want to say yes,” said Scurrah, who babysits the kids.
“It felt awkward to me to have somebody sending something from out-of-town.”
After exchanging a few emails however, Scurrah soon let her guard down and the two have been in touch constantly since.
Pat said Hirvonen has been a ‘godsend.’
“She found out about my other two children who had just lost their mother on January 8, so she wanted to know about them, and then she sent a whole bunch of stuff for them,” he said.
“She has helped to heal my family in so many ways.”
The ‘clothing faerie’ – as Hirvonen has come to be known by the family – sent multiple parcels of clothes over the course of the year for the two children, making sure they had outfits for all seasons.
This summer, she and her husband rented a van, and drove over to Courtenay to deliver some items in person.
“I found out they could use some beds and some other goods,” Hirvonen said.
“So I figured let’s collect some stuff and head over.”
She scoured Craigslist and some local thrift stores and acquired bunk beds, two trampolines, a bike, and a bunch of ‘ride-em’ toys.
Also along for the ride was a kitten named Jasmine, who Scurrah said has become ‘an accomplished mouser’ and a ‘lovely distraction from tougher stuff’ for the two grieving children.
With current distancing recommendations in place, Hirvonen did not stay long, but it meant a lot to her to meet the family in person.
“I count my lucky stars for having met these people,” she said.
‘They’re just amazing. And Shelley’s the backbone of everybody. I’m proud to think of her as family now.
“There’s been an incredible bond built over the past year.”
Helping people has become a big part of Hirvonen’s life.
What started out as small gift parcel for the children of friends, has turned into a life’s passion..
“I was so happy when I heard how they enjoyed it, I kind of got addicted to that feeling,” she said.
“I started looking on Craigslist, and around to see who else might like a parcel and this is how I found the people [in Courtenay].
She also helps a number of other families across the province and has even sent parcels to Gambia.
“I started looking for people that I could make a difference for, and that really helped me,” she said,
“It was like therapy for me to do it, because it brought me so much joy.”
An eye for deals has fared the 57-year-old well.
“And I’m an empty-nester, with a lot of love to give,” Hirvonen adds, noting the love has been returned a thousand-fold.
“People have really, really shown me there’s still a lot of good out there in the world.
“And I needed that.
“You might think I’m doing this to help others, but really it’s me that’s gotten more than I could ever give by seeing that there are still people who really care about others.”
If there is anything she can pass along, Hirvonen said it is to challenge others to step outside their comfort zone, and provide help to strangers this upcoming holiday season.
“I would encourage people to count their blessings, and then do something special for someone less fortunate than they are.
“It will give them more than they could ever wish for.”