Chris Grauer has a hat for almost every day of his volunteer work week. It’s also not unusual for him to be wearing several different ones at the same time.
Giving back to the communities he lives in and around is something the Naramata resident has become well known for, and trying to track him down is not always easy.
While the Soupateria kitchen in Penticton is usually a good starting point, he could very likely be in Summerland helping with the chores at the Critteraid farm, packing goods to ship overseas at the Okanagan Gleaners in Oliver or working at the Naramata Centre.
Now in his mid-60s, Grauer is a past recipient of the B.C. Community Achievement Award presnted by Premier Christy Clark.
“I love the stuff, I do, but I don’t really care if anybody knows that it’s me,” said Grauer after receiving the honour. “When I was a kid I always felt like it was important doing things for other people, just shovelling the snow off somebody’s walk, so if it’s helping somebody else, that’s what’s most important to me.”
Since retiring from his paid job at the Naramata Centre, he typically works six days a week at the various locations.
Sundays he usually likes to have to himself just to relax.
Like most of the people who give of themselves, it’s not the awards or publicity that are the motivators for the work Grauer does.
“At the soup kitchen, if a few people stop by the window and say ‘boy that was good, thanks very much,’ that’s great, that’s all the payment I need,” he said. “That’s what makes my heart happy, knowing that we’ve done a good job, that’s the reward right there.”
Deborah Silk of Critteraid, where Chris was working again this week, had nothing but kind words for her friend.
“He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life and hands down I think every director (of the Critteraid board) would say that,” said Silk. “Honestly his love and respect for animals, including humans, is unsurpassed. (He’s) the kindest person in the world.
“He loves animals, he loves people and he hates suffering of any kind.”
She was quick to add that Grauer is very adamant about what he believes in and, “will go to the mat” to fight injustice against two or four-legged creatures.
“The world could definitely use more people like him,” said Silk.
Richard Simpson has worked alongside Grauer for several years at the Soupateria, and like Silk, has developed an incredible respect for the man.
“He has a very positive attitude and is genuinely concerned about the welfare of the people, which is why he just does everything possible to make their experience a good one,” said Simpson. “It’s that kind of caring that really can make a difference in the lives of people who are going through a tough time. It’s that compassion from another human being which they will remember and maybe make them want to give back when they are able to down the road.”
For his part, Grauer derives a huge amount of personal satisfaction and joy at the end of his volunteer work day.
“I just enjoy helping others, helping animals, it makes me feel good and makes them feel good,” he said. “Throughout my life I’ve always enjoyed things like that and it just seemed like a perfect fit when I stopped working for money. Volunteering is a very good thing and we certainly need it in our world.
“If everybody could do a couple of good things everyday for somebody else, especially for somebody they don’t know, the world would maybe be a different and much better place.”