If something needs doing around Forest Grove, chances are Richard Bergen is already on it.
The tireless community volunteer has been involved in most of Forest Grove’s community organizations since moving to the community in 1986. And he has no plans to stop.
“I’ve been a member of the community club, the curling club, the fire department, rod and gun club, the cemetery. I’ve been a member all around, held some of the positions as director,” Bergen said.
Giving back comes easily to Bergen, whose parents modelled the importance of community service. When his family moved to Sheridan Lake in 1979, Bergen got involved with the Interlakes Lions Club. After graduating from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary in 1986, he found a quiet place in Forest Grove, when he worked as a shepherd at Hendrix Lake, and later helped found the Forest Grove Lions Club.
He’s proud that the Lions Club is still going strong today, although much of that success is due to his dedication. It seems that no job in the community is too small for Bergen to tackle.
While the Lions initially cared for the Forest Grove cemetery, for instance, Bergen took over the job of keeping it tidy until a few like-minded people came together and formed the Forest Grove cemetery committee. As executive director, Bergen and the others organize bi-annual cleans of the graveyard.
He also finds time to clean the Forest Grove and District Community Centre, where he serves as secretary. In the past, the community centre had hosted big seafood banquets, dances and bingo nights, all of which have fallen by the wayside as demographics and regulations have changed.
These days they typically rent the hall out for various community functions and manage campgrounds behind the hall.
“Bingo used to bring 80 to 120 people every Tuesday here years ago,” Bergen said, adding that the number had dwindled to 20 by the time they closed it down.
Next door at Forest Grove Elementary, Bergen enjoys sharing lessons he learned as a Paralympian with the students. When he was seven, Bergen was run over by a car, leaving him with reduced mobility in his right arm and leg due to pinched vertebrae in his neck. He spent six months in the hospital and had to relearn everything. His disability, though, hasn’t slowed him down.
“If you got a disability, don’t keep yourself down low. There are friends and people that can help,” Bergen said.
In the early 2000s, he competed in shot put, discus and other track and fields events across B.C. and Canada. Before the pandemic, Bergen would also lend his experience to 100 Mile Elementary School’s Sports Day and PSO, teaching them the ideal shotput techniques.
“Some of the kids sort of laugh when they watch me do it because I’m using a little ball. They figure they can just walk up and push it and when you’re younger, that’s what it is, but I show them how you can get it out there further by turning your body the way you want it to go,” Bergen said.
Bergen has lately taken on the role of president of the Forest Grove Curling Club, which he hopes they can revive for next winter. He said he had around 15 members interested in participating before COVID-19 hit, most of them new blood, and is hopeful they will turn out this season.
Even if they don’t he has other things to keep him busy.
“I say I’m retired but you wouldn’t know I’m retired because I’m always out of the house, going down to someone’s place to cut the grass or something,” Bergen said, adding this includes weeding his neighbours’ gardens, shovelling their driveways in the winter and whatever they might need a hand with, all at no cost.
He said he enjoys the work. As everyone knows him in the community, he always has something to do.
“I’m still working, here and there, doing odd jobs and helping people out,” he said. “I’m just a happy-go-lucky guy. I just love helping people.”