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Arthur Awards: How a simple job offer saved a life

William Chalupiak told us about a man who was his "life raft." Café owner Jake Callingham's small act of kindness to Chalupiak, a virtual stranger, kept him from sinking into an even darker place than the one he was in.
William Chalupiak was offered a job at a cheese shop in Sudbury, Ont. at a difficult moment in his life. He attributes that job with saving his life. (Bob Edme/Associated Press)

The Vinyl Cafe Arthur Awards, a tradition started by the late Stuart McLean, is given to an ordinary person who has done something kind for their community. In honour of McLean, we asked callers to share their stories of a person in their life who has made a difference to them.

William Chalupiak from Port Coquitlam, B.C., told host Duncan McCue about a man who became his 'life raft.' Café owner Jake Callingham's small act of kindness to Chalupiak, a virtual stranger, kept him from sinking into an even darker place than the one he was in.  

William Chalupiak says he was on the cusp of a downward spiral when a community member in Sudbury, Ont. gave him a job that saved his life. 3:06

William Chalupiak: Jake Callingham lives in Sudbury, Ont. and owns the Fromagerie Elgin. It's a beautiful little café, cheese shop and social house. A wonderful spot. The reason I want to nominate Jake is because of something he did for me about two years ago.

I went in there after we had finished burying my grandfather in the Sudbury cemetery. I was just out of my wits. It was actually the very beginning of a long downward spiral into a very deep depression for me. I had also just recently left a job and I was kind of directionless and really at the bottom of a barrel.

Jake knew me just from around town, he didn't really know me that well. But he said, 'You know Billy, you look sad. What's the matter?' I told him what was happening and he said, 'You need a job?' Right off the bat the guy just offers you a job when you're at the very bottom.

I don't think he realized it at the time, or even over the course of the year and a half I worked there for him, that it was kind of like a life raft for me. Really the only thing that kept me tied to the ground. It gave me a place to anchor myself, something that I had to go out and do. Kept me engaged in living.

I don't know if anyone listening to this has ever suffered through mental health issues, without that it's very, very hard to keep yourself grounded in reality. There were times I'd go into work and I wouldn't be all there. I'd cause all kinds of trouble but Jake still kept me on. I know that he knew that there was something wrong, that there was something going on. I don't know if he knew just the extent to which he was helping me.

Man, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Jake Callingham.

William Chalupiak's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Ieva Lucs on Feb. 20, 2017.

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