Norm Laybourne rings the Salvation Army bell and mans the donation kettle with a discernible determination.
Standing in the hallway of the Waneta Mall four times per week, Laybourne positions himself unabashedly in the midst of the holiday traffic, ringing the bell, hoping to attract the attention of change-laden shoppers who might be convinced to lighten their load.
Laybourne has taken up the mantle as volunteer for the Army in their annual fundraising drive at Christmas time for the last 10 years, something he does not do begrudgingly: he’s paying back a debt.
Over 70 years ago Laybourne was a lad of 13, living on his parents farm near Ponteix, Sask. It was during the Second World War and his eldest brother, Vic, had been serving in the Canadian Army and was stationed overseas in Holland.
Norm still remembers the day his parents got a letter from the Department of Defence saying Vic was missing in action and was presumed dead, his dog tag missing.
“But my mother said he was not missing, that he wasn’t dead,” Norm recalled.
“So she got ahold of the Salvation Army and they found him alive in the hospital in Holland with no identification.”
At the time, the convoy Vic was part of had been going across a dyke in Holland when the Germans ambushed, machine guns ripping the trucks. Vic dove into the river to save himself.
He lived in the water for quite a while, several nights, Norm said, and he ended up in a Holland hospital. That’s when the Salvation Army found him and brought him back home.
However, Vic contracted pleurisy as a result of his ordeal and he didn’t live to be an old timer, said Norm. The injury caused cancer in his lungs and he died at 56.
But Norm was happy to have his brother for the 35 years he did.
“People say why do I go and sit with the Salvation Army and donate my time? I’m paying a debt, my respect back for what they did for me,” he said.
The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers to man their kettles this Christmas. People can donate to the Army at kettles located in the Waneta Mall, Ferraro Foods, the B.C. Liqour Store, Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart.