A retired sign maker in Mission has picked up his old trade to raise money for displaced Ukrainian refugees.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Paul Mathon decided to put his hands to work, while also fixing a problem he says is widespread in Mission – hard to see house numbers.
“I don’t like bullies, and I don’t like what’s happening,” Mathon said. “The war happened, and I started thinking, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can use signs (to fundraise).’”
Mathon used to live in Kelowna and ran a business called Eye Spy Reflective Address Signs.
He’s offering his service to anyone who wants reflective, black-and-white numbers to visibly display in front of their home.
He said if people can’t afford $20, he’ll even do it for free. But if they can spare some money, a donation of any size would be of great help (he only suggests $20 because then it’s tax deductible via income tax receipts).
“I’ve had people say, I don’t need your sign, but they donate anyways,” Mathon said. “It’s a worthwhile cause, you know, you’re getting something for $20.”
Mathon said local house numbers are often missing, shrouded in foliage, or the colour blends into the house paint, making identification difficult for emergency responders.
He said he’s even asked a Mission firefighter to rate the difficulty of spotting house numbers on a scale of one to 10: the answer was a seven.
The material used for the decals are salvaged from a print shop before they are scrapped, are stain-resistant and non-corrosive, and will “last forever,” Mathon said.
He’ll also make you a sign if there’s no convenient place for the numbers to go.
Mathon has been making the signs since June, taking breaks from the volunteering he does with Mission Health Care Auxiliary.
He had a goal of raising $1,000 when he started; he’s been able to raise $800 so far.
The money is being donated to the Mennonite Culture Centre (MCC), who are focusing on scaling up existing programs to help vulnerable peoples fleeing the conflict, offering psychosocial and trauma support, emergency housing and supplies like blankets, clothing and food.
Mathon said he was first inspired to act when he saw the actor Cate Blanchett, speaking as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, talk about the desperate need for emergency donations.
“It’s just a little thing,” he said. “But everyone in the picture, including the government, will have to play a part. I think it can make a difference.”
If you wish to have house numbers installed, call 236-380-4035, and Mathon will come by with his van and tools and get to work.
Donations can be made by visiting the MCC website: mcccanada.ca/stories/crisis-ukraine, mailing a cheque to MCC British Columbia (201-33933 Gladys Avenue), or by entrusting cash to Mathon.