The CNIB (formerly Canadian National Institute for the Blind) office on Richmond Road has a library named for Bob Carter. The annex is called Carter-Ainsworth. It’s a tribute to Carter and his partner of 45 years Frank Ainsworth.
The weather drew them to Oak Bay from Toronto 22 years ago. They moved in July, and by November both were signed up with Oak Bay Volunteer Services. “When you’re retired and relocate you don’t have the friends you left, so you go looking for contact,” Carter said.
Not long after, he was inspired by a longtime friend losing her vision to add the CNIB to his volunteer duties.
“Volunteering is a two-way thing,” he said. “You meet so many people and get to understand their happiness and problems.”
He started reading books onto tape – despite not being big on reading – and progressed to being a right hand document man for Phil Crowson.
“He’s done a lot for me,” said Crowson, who’s in charge of intake and referral for Vancouver Island Regional District of the CNIB. “He’d read things from client files to me and helps fill in the client form.”
As a sighted aide, he set up a file system and continues to organize those files for the busy Crowson, who nominated Carter for the award.
“It makes you appreciate your own situation. That you have your sight,” Carter said. “Now they’re changing the computers and systems so there isn’t quite the need for sighted help there used to be.”
There’s still work for the sighted volunteers in creating welcome packages for the increasing clientele.
“He comes in now and helps me do mailouts and other things for clients,” Crowson said.
“It gives me the opportunity to provide the best client services I can in a short period of time. … When I promise a client something I try to deliver it as immediately as I can, and Bob coming in on a regular basis allows me to do that.”
The two decades of giving spurred Crowson to nominate Carter for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“He’s very meticulous and very orderly, which is good because I am too. He’s patient as far as working with me. … After 21 years, he knows what my expectations are and it’s almost like we can read each other’s minds sometimes. It’s kind of scary really,” Crowson said with a chuckle.
Carter’s artwork of Egyptian eyes hangs at the CNIB office where he’ll get the award in a Sept. 5 ceremony. It’s a twofold honour for him.
“I’m a monarchist, I believe in the system. I believe it has purpose,” he said. “The other thing is, it’s just nice to be recognized.”
More about the jubilee medal
The new commemorative medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
During the year, 60,000 Canadians will be recognized.