Community Service

Haligonians gather to pay homage to Mel and Thelma Boutilier

Couple honoured for community service at celebration at Halifax Forum

Left to right: Thelma Boutilier, Deonte James (Halifax Scholar Program recipient), Rosemarie Patricia (Patsy) LeBlanc, Lieutenant-Governor Arthur J. LeBlanc, Rachel Marie Graves (Halifax Scholar Program recipient) and Mel Boutilier.   Jayde Tynes

The Halifax Forum Maritime Hall was alive with hearty handshakes Sunday during a celebration recognizing Thelma and Mel Boutilier’s over three decades of community service.

It was an emotional experience for Thelma Boutilier. Seeing so many people she has helped in one room made her “thankful for all the continued love and support,” she told The Signal.

As philanthropists, the Boutiliers have brought food to many tables in Halifax through their work with the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank. For the last 30 years, they’ve helped youth further their education.

Through their leadership, Metro Care & Share Society has been able to offer the Halifax Scholars Program, which provides mentorship and financial support to at-risk youth in Halifax. Since 2015, the program has raised $69,245 to provide nine youth the opportunity to attend post-secondary school.

The Boutiliers did not have any children of their own, but for almost 60 years they have supported a number of promising youth in their quest for post-secondary education, including Rachel Graves. 

Graves, a second-year bachelor of arts student at St. Francis Xavier University, went to Sunday’s event to show her support. In 2015, she met with Mel Boutilier about the scholars program.

“After they got back to us, my mom and I sat at the table and cried tears of happiness because it was the first time we felt like the weight of the money issues have been lifted off our shoulders,” said Graves.

She was not the only person at the event who benefited from the generosity of the Boutiliers. Almost 60 years ago, Marie Pifher, then 13 years old, was welcomed into the Boutiliers’ home so that she could attend the school of her choice.

“I had wonderful parents and a large family, but the large family meant that my family could not afford to send me to the church school I wanted to attend, that is when they (the Boutiliers) stepped in,” said Pifher.

Margaret Munroe has donated to the Boutiliers’ programs for over four decades. She said she does it because of how committed they are.

“They are amazing; here they are 86 and 90 and have been helping people even after they retired,” she said. “They are still at it.”

Randy Headley, a senior mentor with the Halifax scholars program, said he’s honoured to work with such a benevolent couple.

“When I see someone who has been retired for a number of years and they are planning to raise funds for the next 10 years, I think that says a lot,” he said. “When you can run alongside someone like that you know you are doing a good thing for the community.”

Recently, Saint Mary’s University awarded Mel Boutilier an honorary Doctor of Civil Law.

Holding his wife’s hand, surrounded by people with gracious smiles Sunday, he said he’s excited about the future.

“I am looking forward to doing greater work,’ he said.

“I am aware of so many needs in all communities and one of my plans would be to expand the Metro Care and Share Society so we can help more young people and families who can’t afford to put themselves through college or training, and to just enjoy the happiness that comes from helping young people to have a better life.”