Something I've grown to appreciate in my 18 years in this community is that things aren't always as they appear, and that work behind the scene doesn't get the recognition it often deserves.
I've grown to appreciate the selflessness of these community builders, and how they often deal with some of a community's most challenging problems, while others are recognized publicly for doing their work.
It's true about every community I suppose, but the point was really hammered home for me last week when I read local media accounts of the evacuation of 15 low-income tenants from the Tessaro Villa apartments at 33412 Tessaro Cr., just west of Five Corners.
The media stories told about the building being a fire risk - among other things - and how it was populated by drug-using, welfare recipients who put little importance on things like laws, cleanliness, health or safety . . . and how their absentee landlords cared even less.
The stories talked of urine and feces in the hallways that were pockmarked by holes in the walls and lined by carpet so filthy it made workers retch.
The media reports talked about the lack of safety for these tenants, the city's growing attention with police and fire service visits, and the subsequent city hall declaration that the building was unsafe, and the subsequent eviction notices.
Many upstanding community service groups were listed for their roles in the process that brought about the building's closure. And indeed these agencies do great work in our communities.
What none of these reports talked about was the people who actually went into the building and did the grunt work of hauling away the evicted tenants' personal effects.
But those work-crew members sure had some stories of their own.
The HOME Society is an Abbotsford-based group of people that helps support folks in the community with special needs, and this agency has put together a work crew that does everything from mowing lawns for group homes, to delivering goods to those in need, to helping hoarders reclaim their lives.
I have worked for this agency on and off since its inception in 1995. It was the HOME Society crew that pulled on their boots and gloves, plugged their noses, and went into that building to move out the majority of those tenants.
"It was horrible," one of the crew members told me last week. "There were needles on the ground, blood everywhere, and the smell was horrible. We were stepping over people and moving in the dark."
One room, another crew worker told me, was so covered in dog feces, except for the mattress the dogs slept on, that it was impossible to enter the room without stepping in feces.
He said it was so disgusting, they eventually decided to leave that room as it was.
"From one unit we hoofed 102 boxes down four flights of stairs before we saw any furniture," said another crew member.
"The woman was a hoarder." The HOME Society work-crew members grimaced as they told the tale, of the four days they spent going up and down the stairs in our community's underbelly, dealing with the kind of stuff none of us would ever dream of having to do; and that we often turn a blind eye to in our efforts to avoid it.
There are many "crews" of this nature working silently in the background who are not recognized in media stories or public accolades.
I'm certain I'm continuing this trend by not naming others who were involved in this move, and for that I apologize.
But today at least, I thank the HOME Society crew, and all their counterparts throughout Abbotsford and Mission, for taking on the unpleasant tasks they do - ones that no one else will.
Thanks for doing society's thankless work. You are an invaluable commodity in our community.
- Kevin Gillies has been a journalist and columnist in the Fraser Valley for more than 20 years. Contact him at email@example.com.