Helping Hands and Giving Hearts
Life’s journey can take us all over the map, but if you’re grounded, your roots stay strong along the way.
James and Alberta Bird travelled down many roads, through wheatfields to oilfields, up the mountains and to the valley. And wherever they went, helping others has been an enduring part of their lives.
James was born in the heart of Canada’s breadbasket, Rouleau, Saskatchewan, which also has a distinction as the setting of fictional town of Dog River in the popular TV series, Corner Gas.
“Things with charity were different then,” he said. “Growing up, we never heard of charities, but if people needed anything, your neighbours were there for you. If someone’s house burned down, you helped them build another one.”
Due to his severe hay fever, farming life was not to be for James. Instead his path took him to Regina where he joined the RCMP, which led to a 35-year career in the force. During this time he met and married Alberta and the two raised a family of two daughters and son.
The couple celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary in September.
Alberta spent her early years on a farm south of Leduc, later moving to the city when her father began working in the oil industry. These close-knit communities instilled in her a life-long concern and caring for others.
Her 28-year career at Scotiabank led to involvement in a variety of charitable activities. “We received many requests from a lot of different organizations and gave to some great causes,” she said.
The RCMP transferred James every three years on average, resulting in nearly a dozen moves. The Birds settled in Vernon in 1994. “We liked the central location, the weather, and being able to spend time skiing and golfing,” said Alberta.
The Birds began donating to Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation in 2004, contributing nearly $8,000 towards urgently-needed medical equipment, staff training and community health programs.
“With so many causes out there asking for donations, we made a decision to pick one,” said Alberta.
“We chose Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation because we know where the money goes, and how it is being used,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what medical problem you have, you need the resources of the hospital.”
The Birds know first-hand about local health care. James has had to use Vernon Jubilee Hospital a number of times over the past eight years.
“I have lots of experience at the hospital,” he chuckled. James’ first surgery was more eventful than anticipated. Unaccustomed to the flurry of preparatory procedures, he passed out when the IV was administered.
“I just wanted to test the emergency equipment,” he joked. “It lengthened my stay a bit, but then I got better and went home.”
His subsequent experiences at the hospital were much better. In November 2008, James had surgery on the other knee, and over the past several years has had two carpal tunnel surgeries and a surgery on his shoulder.
“Between Dr. O’Brian and my physiotherapy, they did a fabulous job getting my arm working again.”
James has also received two cataract surgeries at the Lions Vision Centre in Armstrong. VJH Foundation also provides funding for equipment and staff training at the Centre.
“I’ve used all the equipment. I am going to be bionic soon,” he joked.
“The only time I go to the hospital is when he is there,” said Alberta. “The nurses were excellent; some were absolutely phenomenal. They work 12-hr shifts and are still helpful and cheerful.
How do they do this?”
The Birds recognize that though we readily acknowledge the great care given at VJH, it should never be taken for granted. Our health care staff needs modern medical equipment to continue delivering exceptional care.
“Not enough money goes to health care. To make up the difference, it has to come from somewhere,” said Alberta. “We donate because we need to. It’s just one of the things we do.”