The Craft of Bringing People Together

By Lilly Peterson
Published: Aug 12, 2016
IN HER 96th year, Lorraine Capill has no need to be a resident at Squamish Hilltop House, yet she makes the trip every Tuesday to be there at 10 am sharp. However, it’s not the usual and necessary errands that would prompt anyone of a respectable age out the door so religiously. Instead it’s for two hours of fun, laughter, and friendship that keeps her coming back.  For 10 years, the adult’s crafts group has been running at Hilltop House thanks to retiree Barb Rockandel who volunteers her time and talents week after week. “It’s getting more difficult to get here lately, but I keep coming back because of Barb,” Lorraine says. “I’ve known her for 10 years and she’s such an amazing woman. She’s very artistic and makes the most beautiful cards.”
Listening to Lorraine speak with such endearment about her visits to Hilltop House, it is easy to see how one person can make a few hours of crafts into a meaningful and special time for another. “Barb just loves everybody. There isn’t anything I can think of that she wouldn’t do for you. She’s a very generous lady and a beautiful friend,” she says. “I’m 96 and I keep coming because of Barb. She’s made my last years worthwhile.” barb
Barb is a humble and modest woman who finds it difficult to talk about herself. After retiring from Woodfibre 10 years ago she found herself wanting to spend her time giving back to the community, and particularly to those who may often be forgotten. “I absolutely adore being around older people because they have such a wonderful story to tell – and not too many people will listen,” Barb says. “I don’t care if they tell me a story 10 times. I’ll listen to it as if I’ve heard it for the first time,” she says. 
The weekly crafts group dabbles in all sorts of crafts, but their main love is card-making. Although the group runs for two hours once a week, Barb continues to spend her free time outside of Hilltop House preparing the cards, creating new designs, searching for fun and new verses for all occasions, as well as shopping for supplies for the group.
Although the crafts the group makes are purely for recreation purposes, Lorraine was able to make some return on their artistic talents through the sale of the cards at christmas time. Selling over 8,000 cards, she was able to give back the generosity by donating the funds made into supplies and social events at Hilltop House. However even with the sale of such a tremendous amount of cards, she herself still has thousands more at home. “I’ve got boxes of them at home for anyone who really wants them. They’re just so beautiful I can’t throw them out,” she says. Her motivation to finally start selling some cards was prompted over years of seeing Barb’s contributions to the group. “We don’t have any regular income, and the people that live in the residence have no idea what sacrifices those girls make to come to this group. I do because I’m a crafter and I know what she puts into it. Because I know her outside the group, I realize how much more she puts into it,” she says.
With the many hours she spends each week preparing, organising, and running the crafts group, it is good to hear that Barb is not alone. She chuckles at the memory as she explains how her good friend Lana Watson became her new helper for the weekly group. “My sister Muriel and I started to do this together, but when she moved away there were sixteen women here at that time so it was really difficult for one person to get around and help everyone,” she says. “Lana felt sorry for me and started to help, but I think with the pretense that I would look for a replacement for my sister, but she’s just so amazing with everyone and has been here ever since.”
After a morning of crafts, the close-knit group sits together and enjoys a lunch of sandwiches and crisps as the room fills with chatter and laughter. It’s a scene that thanks to the volunteering efforts by Barb happens every week without fail, according to Hilltop House volunteer coordinator Tanis Watson. “Barb’s presence makes a real difference,” Tanis says. “She has such a bubbly and uplifting personality and she always makes every effort to help everyone feel included. They are always laughing and having fun,” she says. Watson has been working at Hilltop House for 10 years and and can not recall Barb ever missing a Tuesday morning of crafts. “She is unbelievably reliable. She comes every week without fail,” Tanis says.
What started out as a way to give back has clearly turned out to be just as incredibly rewarding and enriching for Barb herself. When presented with the question of whether she intends to eventually stop, she smiles and pauses only to search for the best way to express her thoughts. “I will keep coming to Hilltops until there is no one else to do it with, or until I can’t, which I hope is not for a long time to come.”