Dartmouth resident Colin McCrae is a “force of nature”.
That comes straight from the mouth of Dartmouth East MLA Tim Halman, who during a 2018 address in the Nova Scotia legislature, gave tribute to the octogenarian who has been spending his twilight years volunteering and brightening the streets of his community.
“You are hard-pressed to go to a community event in Dartmouth without seeing Colin's smiling face somewhere,” Halman exclaimed in the September 2018 speech, noting a few of McCrae’s various volunteering efforts. “Our community in Dartmouth would be a lesser place without the incredible work Colin does.”
A fixture in Dartmouth, McCrae originally came to the Halifax-area from Blackburn, England where he had worked for the government for 19 years before spending a few years in Scotland.
“It was while I was in Scotland that I saw this opportunity and came to Canada in 1973,” notes McCrae. During his “industrious” career, he mostly dabbled in electrical engineer work and eventually began getting involved in helping out the community.
However, it was after his wife contracted dementia that McCrae began to have a new lease on life. He became her full-time caregiver for nearly eight years.
“It was just an amazing experience for me because I just wanted to give her the best quality of life I could,” says McCrae, who took great efforts to get his wife out into the community at every opportunity.
After she passed away in 2017, McCrae admits there was a dark period but the experience of caring for his wife made him soon realize he could find healing in the solace of helping others.
“What I do, I do because it gives me so much happiness and joy — to be able to be in contact with other people,” says McCrae.
Among the many projects that McCrae has since been involved with include the first homeless shelter in Dartmouth, arranging speakers for the Port Wallis Seniors’ Lunch and Learn as well as volunteer-walking — both with Hike Nova Scotia’s new NS Walks program and privately up to five days a week.
“It gets me into contact with other people,” says McCrae, adding that walking has been a big part of his life for years. “I understand the health value in this and that’s a real big motivator but with the groups and the individuals I have now, I also want it to be the emotional side and the conversation.”
Notably, McCrae is also a fixture with the Square Roots program in Dartmouth — an organization that battles food insecurity and food waste through an affordable monthly food bundle service.
“It’s basically for people who are in need of vegetables on the table (and) in reality, that food would probably find its way into the landfill if it wasn’t distributed to people,” says McCrae, who registers up to 80 people for special food delivery. “Probably 50 percent of that are people down at the Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre.”
At 83-years-old, McCrae shows no signs of slowing down either. Although the combination of the pandemic and winter weather has made it more difficult for him to carry out volunteering or walking efforts, he continually remains positive and determined to involve himself in the community every day — or in other words — a veritable “force of nature”.
“I tend to call myself a community ambassador. I’ll do anything for anybody,” says McCrae. “I have to have a purpose in life and that purpose used to be my family, my job and my wife (but) what am I going to — sit back and get old? No way! I need something that motivates me and drives me.”