Herb Buist volunteers weekly at the Mustard Seed helping in the computer lab

One dedicated man has been devoting his time once a week for the past 10 years at the Mustard Seed.

 Herb Buist, 58, spends every Friday morning in the computer lab helping the guests with job searches, resumes and other general computer questions.

“I look forward to Friday mornings, I’m a creature of habit, I know I am down at The Seed at this designated time slot,” Buist said.

Looking back at the first memories of volunteering Buist said, “I wasn’t sure about the people — we see them I guess as dirty, scruffy, smelly, but once I got to know them, they are normal people like you and me, they are just a little down and out.”

Herb Buist says he’s passionate about volunteering at The Mustard Seed.
Photo by: Jessica Cameron
After volunteering his time, Buist said he saw the need and opportunity of continuing to give his time to the guests of the Mustard Seed.

“I worked for a large oil company that has always given back to the community, and that was the culture, so I was looking for a way to give back,” Buist explained.

Originally from Kingston, Ont., Buist has been living in Calgary for the past 35 years. He worked with Shell Canada for 28 years, and is currently self-employed working doing computer support for homes and small businesses.

He had seen a newsletter from the Mustard Seed, and decided in 2001 it was a place that he could volunteer his time.

Buist had received permission from his manager at Shell Canada to spend Friday mornings at the Mustard Seed, and has continued spending that time in the computer lab.

Thinking about his life, Buist said, “When I leave here, maybe it’s kind of selfish, but I think, ‘Gee, maybe I don’t have that bad of life after all.’”

“Growing up I almost think that I could have ended up on the street very easily, but I happened to end up in a fairly good job, and I was fairly successful at it, but I keep thinking that that could be me out on the street.”

Buist explained he had dropped out of school in grade 10 and worked various little jobs.

For more information on Buist, click here. “I was never homeless, but not having a very good education, I drifted around doing some jobs that really didn’t have much of a future in them.”

Finding a job with Shell Canada, Buist was on the seismic crew before they brought him to the downtown Calgary office to work in the information technology section.

Buist said it’s the small things that really mean the most while he is volunteering.

“I’ll help some people with resumes and do job searches, and I remember a little while ago someone came in and said, ‘Hey Herb, I got a job.’ I don’t know whether I helped them or not, but it was nice to see that he actually benefited from that.”

While there are little moments that can make Buist happy, there are situations that can be very troubling.

“There is one particular instance that still bothers me. When I worked at the oil company we had a contractor with us. He had some medical problems and he left, and I never knew what happened to him.”

“It just so happened that about four years after he left he showed up here at The Seed, and I was so surprised to see him here.”

Being helpful and knowing that he makes a difference is the drive that keeps Buist coming back every week to the Mustard Seed.

“I was down in Palm Springs for two months last year, well during those two months there was no volunteer down there [in the computer lab], and when I came back people did miss me, it’s nice to get that recognition too.”

Continuing his volunteer work at the Mustard Seed for the next 10 years is in Buist’s plans as he enjoys helping people.

“It would be great if they didn’t have this organization, if there were no more homeless,” Buist said.

jcameron@cjournal.ca