Volunteer Spotlight: Helen Mitchinson
“If everyone stepped out of their house and picked up just one piece of litter, our community would be so much more beautiful.”
Helen Mitchinson, a long time Port Coquitlam resident, has a weekly routine: she walks a two and a half kilometre stretch of Confederation Drive and Western Drive, picking up litter along the way and reporting any issues in need of attention to City of Port Coquitlam staff. She prefers to go out Sundays, because there’s less traffic and she can cover both sides of the street more easily. Since joining the City’s Adopt-a-SPOT (Street, Park, or Trail) program upon its launch in 2012, this weekly walk has been a way for her stay active, help her neighborhood clean and get to know more of her neighbours.
When Helen first moved to Confederation Drive in 1982, she was a Registered Nurse in the Maternity ward at Royal Columbia Hospital. She still meets up with a group of her long time colleagues a couple times a year. Since retiring in 2003, Helen has maintained an active lifestyle. She was an avid runner for many years, until a knee injury in 2016 forced her to slow down a bit. She still enjoys going to the gym and – long walks outdoors, with some of her favourite routes include the Colony Farms area and a stretch of the Traboulay Trail along Argue Street that hugs the Fraser River.
Helen first learned about City adoption programs on trips she would take to the United States with her husband, John. “I would see these Adopt a Highway signs all over the place,” she recalled, “and I said, if something like this ever comes to Port Coquitlam, I’m gonna be the first to sign up!” So when she saw a newspaper story about the City launching its own Adopt a Street, Park or Trail program in October 2012, she was true to her word, putting in the very first application for the program. At the time, Helen was one of three applicants who helped launch the new volunteer program. In the eight years since, the Adopt-a-SPOT program has grown to include over 50 participating individuals, families, schools and businesses working together to keep Port Coquitlam clean.
Helen says that the people she runs into on her weekly walk are largely thankful for her efforts. “Many people really appreciate it, and will stop me to say thank you. One time, a man came out of his house to thank me and gave me a $10 Tim Horton’s card!” But more importantly, she says, are the times people have told her that seeing her take care of the neighbourhood has impacted their own behaviour, and encouraged them to pick up litter where they see it. “If everyone stepped out of their house and picked up just one piece of litter, our community would be so much more beautiful.”
The City of Port Coquitlam would like to thank Helen for making a positive impact on the community!