An Abbotsford man who has volunteered with the Fraser Valley Gleaners almost every day for the past 18 years celebrated a milestone birthday on April 3.
Andy Brandt turned 100, and his fellow volunteers, family and friends had a celebration for him that day at the Gleaners, where he still shows up as often as he can to help the non-profit agency.
Brandt can be found in his favourite spot, sharing laughs and chatter with the other volunteers in the warehouse – on Winson Road near the Sumas border crossing – as they peel, chop, slice and dice fresh produce, including potatoes, carrots and onions.
The vegetables are then dried and made into a soup mix that is distributed to those in need in more than 40 countries.
Anywhere from 35 to 80 volunteers help out every weekday and on Saturday mornings. Last year, more than 15 million soup portions were delivered through a variety of distribution networks.
Brandt has been involved with the organization since it first began operation in 2001. He said he has done an array of volunteer work over the past seven decades.
“Whenever there was a chance to volunteer, I was usually there …. So I just kept going,” he said.
Board president Ed Klassen has high praise for Brandt’s solid work ethic, and says everyone enjoys having him around.
“(We enjoy) his faithfulness and his cheerfulness. Even at this age, he has a good sense of humour. He cracks a few jokes here and there. He’s just a fun guy to have around,” Klassen said.
Not only is Brandt still an active volunteer, but he still drives his own vehicle and had his driver’s licence renewed in March for another two to four years.
There were about 90 people in attendance at his birthday celebration at the Gleaners, and some of them gave speeches, including Brandt himself, who shared some details about his life.
He was born April 3, 1919, the seventh child of 11 – eight boys and three girls – on the family farm in Rosenort, Man.
The family worked the Red River Valley soil – they did mixed farming, including grain – until his parents sold the property and retired.
All 11 siblings reached adulthood, married and made their way into a variety of occupations.
Brandt married Anna Viola Heide in May 1942, and they raised three sons and a daughter. Anna passed away in December 1990.
Brandt worked in a variety of jobs over the years, including entrepreneurial ventures in trucking, agricultural services and logging.
Eventually, he focused on construction, which led to a move to B.C. in August 1958. The family settled in the Fraser Valley, and Brandt has been in Aldergrove and Abbotsford ever since.
He now lives in Abbotsford with his daughter.
Brandt said he’s not entirely sure to what he can credit his longevity, but some of it might have to do with genetics.
“I had four of my brothers and sisters that became 86 years, and then my one brother he passed away two years ago, and he was 100 years and one month,” he said.
That brother was blind and needed a walker, and Brandt said he’s fortunate to have better health.
“Everything seems to fall into place … I’m still driving my car, and I don’t need a walking cane, but my hearing is not the best, but that’s all right. I can live with that,” he said.