Retirement and golf tend to go hand in hand.
Since retiring a decade ago from his career in the airline industry, Frank van Gisbergen has spent a fair share of time on the links, but it’s not something that fills every hour of every day. He also busies himself chairing two boards: The Comox Valley Airport Commission and L’Arche Comox Valley. He also sits on his strata board.
“The first few years after retirement, I decided there’s more to life than just playing golf,” said van Gisbergen, who was born in the town of Bussum but mostly lived in Baarn in Holland.
Since moving to Canada in 1965, he has lived in Terrace (where he started his career), Prince Rupert, Fort St. John (where he owned a travel agency), Vancouver (where he met his wife, Sheila), Regina and Calgary, where the couple arrived in 1988 and where he spent most of his career.
After moving to the Valley in 2007, van Gisbergen became involved with L’Arche (French for The Ark), a worldwide organization that operates homes and work settings for adults with developmental disabilities.
Thanks to the I Belong Campaign that raised more than $1 million, the Comox Valley branch has started to turn dirt on a new outreach centre/residence containing six apartments in Courtenay.
“This is something quite new for L’Arche,” van Gisbergen said. “Hopefully we’ll start building something in July. Since I’ve been in the Valley, it absolutely amazes me how generous people are. We aren’t the only charity, and yet they seem to support all of them.”
van Gisbergen happened upon the organization at Christ The King Catholic Church, where he met L’Arche Comox Valley founder Lock Mawhinney and started attending events.
“The more I got to events, the more I saw there was something there that interested me, something I wouldn’t mind being part of,” he said. “I love doing it. The spirit of these people is absolutely amazing.
“We all have different capabilities and we all have different ways of looking at things, but in the end we’re all human beings and we’re all the same in terms of what we can and cannot do.”
van Gisbergen also sings with the Celebration Singers, a non-auditioned, four-part concert choir.
In March and April, he volunteers with the Comox Lions Club, where he helps low-income people with taxes.
“It’s a great service,” he said. “On an average year we do close to 500, 600 tax returns. It really helps out seniors and people who can’t afford to pay the fees.”