Giving a helping hand: a word from the wise

"It's fun to help people! I do it for them, but also for myself. Volunteering makes me happy!" - Claude Albert

By Mélanie Larouche

Volunteering has always been a part of Claude Albert's life. As this kindly grandfather says, "It's in my DNA!" The holiday season is especially busy for him. But between the baskets he prepares and hands out with Saint Vincent de Paul, and the evenings spent chauffeuring partygoers through Operation Red Nose, Claude Albert still finds time to laugh. Today, he sat with us to explain why volunteering is so important to him.

"It's fun to help people! I do it for them, but also for myself. I think it's important to lend a hand to those who are less fortunate. They didn't choose their circumstances. And at the same time, you need to have a little fun in your life--and volunteering makes me happy!"

Claude Albert inherited his generous streak from his mother, a very stern but warm-hearted Irishwoman. "My dad worked for the railroad, so he wasn't home a lot. She was the one running the house! We were a family of six boys. My mother raised us right, and that includes giving and helping each other out. And from a young age, too, she raised us to respect women. That was important to her."

Respect and commitment 
Like his mother before him, Claude Albert is no doormat. He'll give you the facts straight away--but always with a smile. "I've worked for Saint Vincent de Paul for 25 years. I even ran my own sector. I've seen a lot of terrible situations. Unfortunately, there are also people out there profiting from the system. And when I see them, I'm happy to go up and tell them just what I think about what they do. Exploiting society's least fortunate members is a sacrilege." 

35 years with Operation Red Nose 
At age 84, Claude Albert sees it as a privilege to be able to help Operation Red Nose for the 35th year in a row. He's even more proud to say that he was there the very first night, when roughly a dozen other people first offered to drive people home after a night out. The efforts were led by Jean-Marie De Koninck, who was hoping to raise funds for the swimming team at Université Laval. At the time, Claude Albert was teaching body shop at the Wilbrod-Bhérer school in Quebec City. He was also the director of the pool, where he regularly ran into De Koninck and his swimmers, who trained there every week. 

If you asked Claude Albert to tell you every single story from his nights with Operation Red Nose, you'd be laughing for hours! He always manages to bring a smile to everyone's faces. "One night, we went to pick up a lady from a restaurant in the city. She seemed a bit sad, so we asked her if she wanted to have fun on her way back home. She said yes, though she didn't look like she thought it was possible. But by the time we got to her house, we had her crying with laughter! She told us we made her evening! That's a great reward!" 

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