Halifax humanitarian couple mark major milestones

A party held for Mel and Thelma Boutilier celebrates his 90th birthday, honourary degree in civil law from Saint Mary's University and her 86th birthday.

Mel Boutilier recently received an honorary degree and turns 90 at the end of the month

Thelma and Mel Boutilier have been married for 63 years. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Mel Boutilier says "the joy of helping somebody" is what keeps him going in his charity work in Halifax as he approaches age 90.

"I have been doing this now for 34 years and it's just to joy to be able to find a way to help somebody whose struggling and doesn't have the means to get what they need," said Boutilier, the executive director of the Metro Care and Share Society in Halifax. "It's me. It's the way I've been all my life."

On Sunday, about 70 people gathered at the Maritime Hall of the Halifax Forum to celebrate Boutilier and his wife, Thelma.

Mel recently received an honorary doctorate degree in civil law from Saint Mary's University and he's turning 90 on Jan. 29. Thelma turns 86 next month.

About 70 people attended the party for Mel and Thelma Boutilier. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The couple have been married for 63 years and have been helping people in Halifax for decades. Mel Boutilier founded the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank in 1983 and was there for more than 30 years before he resigned in 2014.

He also founded the Metro Share and Care Society, which aims to lift people out of poverty through education.

Thelma Boutilier said her husband thrives from helping others.

"If someone has a need, he can't ignore it," she said. "I've been working and supporting him in that because I was dedicated to what he was doing and he was doing what he wanted to do."

Mel Boutilier is the founder and executive director of the Metro Care and Share Society, a group dedicated to lifting people out of poverty through education. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Solitha Shortte, who works with the Boutilers at the Metro Share and Care Society and serves as its vice executive director, helped organized the party. 

"Today we are celebrating two of our homegrown heroes, Mel and Thelma," said Shortte. "We wanted to combine everything and show them some love, the selfless giving they have been giving back to our communities."

Shortte said Mel is a huge inspiration to her.

"He's turning 90 and there's no slowing down with him. There's no better boss to have than somebody who leads by example," she said.

'He's in there every day'

Elizabeth Baillie has been a volunteer at Metro Care and Share for two years. She said the couple are both very hands-on at the organization.

"He's in there every day, he can't tear himself away from it. And Thelma is there a large part of the time too. They do a lot for the community," Baillie said.

Boutillier said he hopes to expand the work the Metro Care and Share Society does.

"That we'll be able to have the means to find scholarships, find whatever it takes to help many more young people," he said.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.