Before the cranes arrived at the up-and-coming container terminal, Julie Slocombe was on the bus heading north, listening to the naysayers doubt the port in Prince Rupert would ever take off.
“We moved for the cranes,” Slocombe said. That was nine years ago. She moved to the North Coast with her two children, where her husband, Kurt, started his new job at the container terminal — and two months later the cranes arrived.
The family of four moved into a large home and people told them, “You’ve got a big house, now you need to fill it.” Sure enough, the Slocombe’s had two more kids and the stay-at-home mom is constantly on the move.
Before moving to Prince Rupert, she enjoyed helping people, but her life didn’t enable her to do all that she can do in a small community where she feels more connected. She doesn’t want people to know all that she does, and would rather keep the appearance that things just magically happen on their own.
This past week, food drive bags magically appeared outside homes in the city all the way to Port Edward. Slocombe has coordinated the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive for the past five years through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
“This is how I describe what I do — I am the conductor, the volunteers are my musicians and Prince Rupert writes the music, that is how the food drive works,” she said.
The first year of the drive, Slocombe said she nervously did 1,000 bags because she thought it wasn’t going to work. She was pleasantly surprised at the success of the drive, and the next year they went up to 2,000 bags. This year, they’re delivering 4,000 bags.
On Saturday, volunteers sorted more than 5,000 lbs of food and took the bounty to the Salvation Army food bank. Slocombe is amazed how enthusiastic people in the city are to donate. This year, 450 homes donated. Another year, many told her that they’d be away for collection day and they dropped off a trunk full of food at her house.
If Slocombe ever decided she no longer wanted to organize the food drive, she said there would be tyranny in her home — her children love picking up bags, sorting them and telling people about it.
“I think it’s meaningful because we’re not giving them a mundane task, because ‘Sorry, this is grown up work’. It’s an activity that they can do and they make a difference, which is really good for children these days. How many times can children really make a big difference like that?”
The food drive is only one example of all Slocombe does in the community. People ask her why she doesn’t work and she responds that she wouldn’t get to do what she wants to do. The new school year just began, and so did some of her volunteer duties.
In either torrential rain or sunshine, Slocombe is out in the mornings flagging traffic. The rainy days, she said, are the most important days because people drive fast, they can’t see and they’re frustrated. She also participates in a parents reading program at Pineridge Elementary School. Kids who are below or above their grade level read out loud to her and get extra practice.
“Because of the kids I get extra places to volunteer with all the activities that they are in,” she said. “I won’t ever be the president but I’ll do whatever anybody needs done. That’s how it works best.”
Daily service is integral for Slocombe. She belongs to the Relief Society, the largest women’s organization in the world that was established in 1842 to help those in need. If she is doing something for somebody else she said she thinks less about herself.
She has been a member of the Relief Society since she was 18-years-old and it’s one of the main reasons she serves daily. She also tells her kids that our job is to make somebody happy every day. It’s easier than making people grumpy.”
When she first moved to Prince Rupert, she said she would stay anywhere between two to six years, but she still says that today. “When people come to Prince Rupert I say, ‘You say you’re going to stay two years. It’s okay, you’re going to get moss on your feet and then the roots grow. There’s just so much rain the moss will just grow on your feet’,” Slocombe said.
The community is so small that all four of her kids, Grant, 13, Jessica, 10, Carter, 8, Kaylie, 6, can do their after school activities and their mother can feasibly shuttle them around. She can’t think of a better place to raise her kids.
With all the behind-the-scenes work Slocombe does she makes sure she keeps her own tank full. Playing piano is one of her outlets. She also took swimming lessons at the age of 40 with her four-year-old daughter. That same year she also learned to water ski and drive a boat.
“Over 40 is a lot more fun than under. I’m comfortable in my own skin,” she said.