Revelstoke is full of happy, outgoing people – people smiling after a day in the mountains, playing in the snow or dirt.
Randy Gribble is one of those cheerful people, always ready to greet you with a friendly welcome, whether he’s volunteering at the Thrift Store, in the food bank, or just walking down the street.
“He’s always in a good mood, always cheerful,” says Patti Larson, the co-ordinator of the food bank. “He has lots of charm and personality.”
I first met Gribble several years ago when working on a story about the food bank. He was outgoing and friendly on my first visit there and it’s remained that way, whether at the food bank or at the Thrift Store, where he’s always been willing to help find something. Last Thursday we met up at the food bank depot in the basement of the Legion hall, where he was helping fill up the Christmas hampers. He was sporting a thin mustache and a healthy head of brown hair, that belied his 54 years of age. He kept sneaking Werthers from a basket on the table. “It’s the only addiction I’ve got,” he said.
Gribble’s spirit comes despite a rough life that might lead many to despair. He was born in Wells, B.C. in 1958 and his family – he has three brothers and three sisters – moved to Mica when he was 10. In 1972 they came down to Revelstoke. He left high school and started working at the Regent Hotel.
“No slackers” in my family his father told him.
Gribble worked for CP Rail for a few months, and spent years working a several sawmills. It was while working at the Federated Co-operatives sawmill that he injured his back, requiring him to spend months in surgery, he said.
The injury sidelined him and he receives a small Canadian disability pension. “I haven’t been able to work in a long time,” he said.
In 2000, when the food bank opened, he became a client.
A search of the court records shows Gribble has two convictions on his record –one for petty theft in 2004 and another for possession in 2007.
The latter earned him a year-long suspended sentence and a year of probation. The former helped lead him to where he is today; he was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service so he went to the food bank, where he was already a client, and he never left.
“It’s the camaraderie,” he said, when asked why he’s stuck around.
Gribble’s family has a history of illness. His father died in 1982 and he spent many years caring for his mother while she was sick, until she passed away in 1992. Gribble, in addition to his back problems has had a number of ailments. Last year a tumor was found in his stomach and he spent six months with a “poop bag”, as he called it.
His latest injury happened in late-October when he was working on his car. The fan started up and sliced through all of the tendons in one of his fingers. It now sits in a cast, and he’s waiting to find out how it can be repaired.
Through it all, he’s kept showing up for work, spending every Friday morning at the food bank and several days a week at the Thrift Store. At the latter, he spent a year helping out before Larson sponsored him to become a full member of the Hospital Auxiliary. During the Christmas hamper season, he’s at the food bank five days a week, before heading over to the Thrift Store. When he’s not volunteering, he goes for walks around town with his girlfriend and takes care of his brother Frank, who has cancer.
Earlier this year, Larson nominated him for a Spirit of Revelstoke Award. He received the honor at the volunteer fair in October.
“”He’s punctual, reliable, trustworthy, loyal to us,” said Larson. “He’s been a really good ambassador to the food bank.”
I asked Gribble how he keeps his spirits so high, despite his seemingly tough life. He didn’t have any secret: “I don’t have too many down days,” he replied. “I try to keep myself up.”