Dennis Renaud would’ve handled a lot of bottles over his years at Courtenay Return-It. He wouldn’t have known though that bottles would come to his aid during a crisis after retiring.
When he finished work in January 2020, he obviously left a few friends behind at the depot. The 71-year-old was looking forward to retirement with his partner Barb, but in April, only three months after finishing his job, he got the news he’d been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, which has required chemotherapy and medication for treatment as well as pain.
His former employer and colleagues put their efforts together to help him out during treatment. One of the employees, Richard Cook, camp up with an idea to hold a bottle drive to raise funds for Renaud so he can enjoy this stage of his life.
The business held the drive on Saturday, July 25. Hundreds of people through the Comox Valley donated their bottles, while a large team of staff and volunteers gave their time to sort the bottles. Courtenay Return-It employees Cook, Joel Johnson, Linda Billings, Hazel Chung, Gordon Oostenbrink and Richard Dimery took part in the effort, as did community members Matthew Orlowsky, Karen Forsyth-Lavoie, Cindy Albert, Natasha Villeneuve and Lori Antunovic.
In the end, they raised enough money to present Renaud with a cheque for $13,676.20. They raised another $90 in cash donations since they cut the cheque and had another couple hundred dollars in account to help him. The bottle depot has held other drives before, but the most money they had raised was about $2,500.
As to how he was going to use the money, Renaud said he didn’t know how exactly – maybe take a helicopter flight to the top of the glacier and take a photo from the summit.
At the presentation on the evening of July 30, owner Sook Lee read a message to him, which her daughter Emily Kim translated.
“The biggest blessing while running a business is having good employees,” she said, crediting him for his effort and never making excuses. “As a business owner, I am lucky to have such an employee and friend.”
Renaud started work at the bottle depot in 2006 when it was at a different location, then left for a little over a year before returning. The way he described his approach to working at Return-It explains why his employer appreciated him.
“I’m a strong supporter of customer service,” he said.
When Lee was finished reading her letter, she and Renaud each made a socially distanced hugging gesture. He said he was touched by what his colleagues did, though he admitted he was not a man of many words.
“I’m very overwhelmed,” he said. “I’ve been told by a lot of people I’m very positive.”