VIDEO and story: Heart of Our City — The Captains depart after 15 years
Bad Video Embed Code

VIDEO and story: Heart of Our City — The Captains depart after 15 years

Captain Gary Shiels retires from his duties at the Prince Rupert Salvation Army

Last year, the Salvation Army helped one in 20 Canadians — in Prince Rupert the organization helped one in four residents.

Fifteen years ago, when Captain Gary Sheils and his wife, Captain Nancy, were posted to serve on the North Coast, the need was so great, they had to expand the soup kitchen to the hall on Grenville Court.

“Within four or five months we were serving 275 meals every day the need was that great,” said Captain Sheils. The food bank went from serving 30-40 families a month to 325 families a month. The need was just absolutely horrendous. It’s still high but nowhere near that level.”

In 2002, with the closure of the pulp mill and the downturn in the fishing industry, the need for the Salvation Army’s services soared, and when the Sheils arrived from Houston, they put in countless hours of service with a skeleton staff until the divisional headquarters paid a visit and increased funding to hire more help.

The staff increase has remained since then, with three in the soup kitchen, two in the food bank, one for the shelter, five at the thrift store — the only change is that the captains are leaving.

At 70-years-old, Captain Sheils said it’s the right time to retire.

“I will miss the people. Nancy and I have said to each other, 19 years ago we left Ontario, family and our church family and it was really difficult to leave, but we were called to come out here. Here we are 19 years later, leaving what we considered to be our church family, our community family and it’s going to be so very hard to do,” he said.

A guitar sits in his office. In another chapter of Captain Sheils’ life he used to play in bars to pay his rent, now he plays Christian music on Sunday mornings to his congregation, and he also plays for himself.

Gary and Nancy grew up in Ontario, where they were involved in the Salvation Army church. In 1997, a job opportunity came up in Houston, B.C. to look after a camp, a thrift store with the possibility of starting a church. They answered the call, leaving family and friends behind.

“One of the sacrifices we made was coming out to B.C. and leaving family behind in Ontario. We’ve missed our grandkids, they’re growing up. We go back every couple of years but that’s not much,” he said. The couple have three daughters, four sons and five grandchildren.

While in Houston, the Sheils took an on-the-job officer training program in Terrace and after spending a few years as commissioned auxiliary captains in Houston, they were posted to a poverty struck Prince Rupert.

“It was tough. There was a lot of need,” he said.

But the support from the community has always been what Captain Sheils called phenomenal. From the second Christmas to date, the Salvation Army has raised $150,000 to $175,000 every year in the city.

“I can’t say how grateful my wife and I are for that support.”

Although it’s usually Gary’s face in the newspaper holding onto oversized cheques for the organization, he said he and his wife are a team. Where he is weaker, she is stronger, and together they are the heart of the Salvation Army in the city.

Captain Gary Sheils said his day is varied, depending on the need. He does his best to plow through the administrative work so he can keep his door open.

“As much as possible, although sometimes that is difficult, to keep my door open so the 125 people who come through this building in a day, if they need somebody to talk to, then I’m available,” he said.

He listens to those dealing with death, addiction, homelessness or any other troubling situation the people in this community struggle with.

What he finds the most heartbreaking is those people he just can’t help.

“The heartbreaking times are when people are just so trapped in an addiction and so lost and try as you may they’re just not ready for any type of help and that is really hard,” he said, adding that he never stops trying because one day he hopes they may change.

With all his selfless service, he does make time for himself to clear the mind. In the golfing season, he carves out a chunk of his day to play at least nine holes at the course. His wife plays as well.

Sheils said he is grateful for the team that has built the Prince Rupert Salvation Army to become what it is today. On July 23, Lt. Sabrina and Greg Silvey will be taking over the Sheils’ duties.

The captains return to Ontario on June 22, and his retirement party is on Saturday, June 17 at 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army Church.

Heart of our CitySalvation Army

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Captain Gary Shiels is looking forward to retirement, he won’t miss the paperwork, but he says he will miss the community. Photo by Shannon Lough

Captain Gary Shiels is looking forward to retirement, he won’t miss the paperwork, but he says he will miss the community. Photo by Shannon Lough

Just Posted

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attend an apartment fire on the morning of April 11 in a building at 521 Fulton Str. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Sunday morning fire rouses tenants

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attended an apartment fire at 521 Fulton St.

Bears are waking up hungry and starting to forage, Conservation Officer Service said on April 9. Prince Residents are advised to keep garbage in sealed containers to lessen bear attraction. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Keep bears wild – they are not teddy bears

Conservation Officer Service warns bears are waking up hungry

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Most Read