The bond of friendship came in the form of a pair of pool cues for Paddy and Henry.
The two men have formed a friendship over the green plain of a billiard table over many years at the Vancouver Second Mile Society in the Downtown Eastside.
The affable Paddy is first to admit that his pool pals aren’t his closest friends, since many of those have passed away, but he still holds them dear.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends. They’re not real intimate. It’s different, but they’re still good friends,” says Paddy, who was a prominent Chinese-Canadian entertainer.
Paddy is almost a daily fixture at the society. Vancouver Second Mile Society has been funded by the United Way of the Lower Mainland since 1963.
Paddy likes to come to the organization for the nutritious meals since he lives alone and doesn’t cook anymore. “I love it here. They cook both Chinese food and very good Caucasian meals,” says Paddy of the low-cost breakfast and lunches at the society.
The singer and entertainer speaks flawless English. Paddy grew up in Soda Creek, B.C. He likes to practise his Cantonese with some of the Chinese members of the society, but he also appreciates the cultural mix of people at the society. “People get along here harmoniously. There’s no discrimination here.”
Although in his eighth decade of life, Paddy shows no signs of slowing down. He still sings at other senior centres and is trying to set up a music group that would benefit the roughly 600-strong membership at the Vancouver Second Mile Society. “This is like coming home,” says Paddy.
The fact that Paddy enjoys eating at the Vancouver Second Mile Society is an example of what Executive Director Steve Chan considers as a means to an end since the meals are a way for seniors to sit down, talk and connect while helping to meet their nutritional needs. The Vancouver Second Mile Society specializes in helping the low-income senior population in the downtown core by providing a place to socialize and develop friendship circles.
“Many of them live in the hotels and they don’t even have a living room there. We pretty much set up our environment like a living room environment for them to watch TV, talk to friends and play pool,” says Steve.
For Paddy, learning the art of pool is a lesson that continues. “The pool players here, I got lessons from, especially Henry. I watch the way he shoots and copy him,” says Paddy, and the compliment gets a modest chuckle from Henry.
Henry has been coming to the society for a decade and likes to drop by whenever he has a free moment. Most people at the society know Henry by name and while he’s made several good friends, some of his closest have also passed away.
“I feel secure here,” says Henry, who has lived in the downtown eastside for decades. “Basically why I come here is to unwind, to stay away from the bad areas.”
Although Henry admits to being a bit of a loner, he knows that he is a survivor from a past that included abuse in B.C.’s residential schools. He appreciates the friendships that he has made, including the members and staff of the Second Mile Society. Henry likes the mixture of people at the Second Mile Society, and will easily admit that he’d be lost without the society and places like it.
Henry lives alone now, but he is engaged to be married soon, and high on the invitation list are some of his friends and family at the society.
In the meantime, he makes it in to the Vancouver Second Mile Society whenever he can for a round of pool. “It comes and goes. I win, I lose,” says Henry.
Helping seniors is a priority for United Way of the Lower Mainland. United Way is committed to helping seniors stay independent, active, healthy, informed and contributing to the community for as long as possible.