It’s 7:45 a.m. on a warm and sunny spring morning and San Doeleman is poking around in a garbage can using his cane.
He moves his cane back and forth in the City of Chilliwack trash bin and eventually pulls out a Coke can, tosses it to the ground and then puts the grey, plastic lid back on top of the metal can.
Doeleman calls to his buddy, John Thiessen, that he “found one” and brings it over to him.
A white, plastic grocery bag hangs from Thiessen’s walker. Thiessen holds the bag open and Doeleman drops the can in.
The two octogenarians, who both live at Chartwell Lynnwood Retirement Residence in Chilliwack, have been collecting cans together every day for a long time and every dime of their efforts goes to charity.
Thiessen, 86, has been collecting for about four years and 83-year-old Doeleman has been doing it for a year and a half. They head out every single day, bright and early, at 7:30 a.m.
“This year, we’ve only missed two days so far,” Thiessen said proudly.
Their walking route is “about” 2.19 kilometres long, Thiessen said, and they venture past the Landing Sports Centre, Townsend Park, the pump track, the Coliseum, the Landing Leisure Centre, plus the skate park and playground snapping up every water bottle, pop can and juice box they can find.
They always get a good haul on Wednesdays as it’s collection day and the residential recycling bins are out on the streets.
And although residents and staff at the Lynnwood have been collecting bottles and cans for charity for eight years, these two men have gone a step further by including it in their routine every day.
“I have to walk. I had a stroke in 2017,” Thiessen said. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t lift my arms, I couldn’t speak, so it gives me something to do and it makes it more interesting.”
Doeleman also walks for health reasons. He had two hip replacements in 2018 and now enjoys combining his daily walks with collecting bottles and cans.
“I like the walk and… we do something, I hope, good for the community,” he said.
Every morning they take three grocery bags with them, and since Thiessen uses a walker and Doeleman a cane, there’s only so much they can carry.
“We take these bags along and if they’re totally full we gotta go home,” Doeleman said with a chuckle.
When they get back to the Lynnwood, they bring everything to their sorting corner located in the scooter parking area of the building. When they have six bags full, Doeleman loads them into his van and brings them to the recycling depot. They figure they collect about $35 worth of cans each month, and it will all be going to BC Children’s Hospital.
Thiessen said they get “some anticipation” from the walk. They’re like two kids on a scavenger hunt.
“We focus on what we find,” Thiessen said.
On this Saturday morning walk, they didn’t find much but they also didn’t expect to since they were out the night before and already brought in a good haul. Thiessen holds up a bag of eight cans and bottles at the end of the morning walk.
“Eighty cents. That’s better than nothing,” he said.
Doeleman agrees. Even if they only find one can, it’s worth it and they want to continue this good deed for years to come.
“I hope I can do this in another five years,” Doeleman said.
Those who would like to donate bottles to San Doeleman and John Thiessen’s ongoing bottle drive can bring them to the Return-It Depot at 2-45934 Trethewey Ave. Donations can be made to account #705 (aka The Good Fellas).