Rory Clark tends to the garden beds outside the Salvation Army Lighthouse Centre every day.

Campbell River man pays it forward

While homeless, Rory Clark was well-looked after by the Salvation Army. Now that's back on his feet, he is paying the organization back for its generosity.

After falling on hard times, and running out of money, a former Campbell River logger turned to the Salvation Army for support. Now back on his feet, he’s repaying the organization for its kindness.

Rory Clark had been a logger for 32 years when he hurt his back and was out of work.

“I had a lack of money and I fell into a system of suffering – my father also passed away,” Clark says. He ended up homeless and stayed at the Salvation Army shelter and used the soup kitchen for meals.

“I didn’t think I would have to go to the Salvation Army to sleep or eat and I really appreciate what they did for me,” Clark says. “Everyone always thinks ‘that won’t happen to me’ and I thought it wouldn’t happen to me, but it did.”

Clark says now he’s “on the straight and narrow” and he shares a place with his son.

He still stops by the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army Lighthouse Centre and one day, while talking to a volunteer, he asked if there was any work that needed to be done.

“With all the stuff they’ve done for me, I wanted to give back,” Clark says.

“So I come here and pick up garbage around here,” he says as he points out the clean sidewalks around the Lighthouse Centre and Rexall-North Island Pharmacy beside JJ’s Pub.

“I hope if I do, others will too and make it nice around here.”

Clark has certainly done his part to make the Cedar Street area nice. Over the past three months, he has pulled weeds that grow along the cracks in the sidewalks and in the parking lot behind the pharmacy. He has also yanked out the weeds and towering grass from the flower beds surrounding the Lighthouse Centre and Rexall.

And he has pruned the bushes and small trees that were growing in the garden beds, he says as he points out a neatly trimmed tree that used to spill out onto the sidewalk.

“I got eight bags of trimming off that one tree, which is now a shrub,” Clark says proudly.

Alongside the bushes and shrubs in the garden beds are colourful pink, purple and yellow flowers that Clark planted himself.

The cost of the flowers, soil, rakes, shovels and other tools he uses all came out of his own pocket.

Clark figures he has spent about $200 but he has no plans of stopping.

The green thumb, who tends to the area every day, wants to put in a memorial garden just outside the Lighthouse Centre.

The recent death of a close friend inspired him to design an area where people can memorialize a loved one, similar to what is already in place at Rotary Park. Clark already has permission to put in a plaque for his friend and hope others get the same opportunity. Clark, who receives no compensation for his work, figures his new hobby will stick.

“I started in front of the soup kitchen, but I realized the rest is a mess,” he says. “I keep pulling out weeds but they keep coming back.

It’s a never-ending job.”

Still he says it’s rewarding when someone comes by, follow his example, and picks up trash.