POINTE-CLAIRE – In the Pointe-Claire village, Gordon Bell is a local icon.
On most days, he can be seen biking around town, collecting cans and bottles, which he cashes in to make ends meet.
“Everybody in the village knows Gordie,” said Linda Machika, an employee at Le Panier on Lakeshore Road.
“He’s always helping us. He does the recycling, he cuts the grass for Le Panier. He’s always around to help people.”
But this week, it was Gordie himself who needed a helping hand.
On Wednesday evening, he went to cash in his cans at the Metro grocery store in Pointe-Claire.
He parked his bike out front while he briefly went inside, but when he came out just minutes later, it was gone.
“I came out and ‘where’s the bike?'” said Bell.
“I know that someone took the bike and they went north on Saint-John’s road because some of the bags were found on Saint-John’s road.”
Bell started collecting cans in the summer of 1994.
What began as a joke quickly became his livelihood, as the hobby proved itself more lucrative than he had imagined.
“I realized there was money to be made,” said Bell.
“I did it so I could earn extra money and not have to live on charity handouts, welfare, food banks or whatever is out there.”
Over the past 21 years, he estimates that he’s made roughly $200,000 collecting cans – money that supplements his old age pension.
He said the money has allowed him to live debt-free and he takes pride in his financial independence.
“It means I don’t have to bow down to somebody else,” he said.
Bell was never able to get a driver’s license for medical reasons.
His bicycle is his only mode of transportation, and now it’s gone.
What makes it all the more unfortunate is that Bell only had the bike for days before it was stolen.
“Someone didn’t take his old bike that we were about to throw to the curb, they took the brand new one that we just had ordered the week before,” said Pierre-Paul Schiltz, the owner of Cycle Paul, a specialty bike store in the Pointe-Claire village.
It’s been Bell’s one-stop-shop for repairs and replacements for decades.
Now, they’re offering him a new one at cost.
“If it wasn’t for him, the village would never look this clean,” said Schiltz.
“It sucks that somebody took his bike and just walked away with it and we want to give back to him. He’s given us so much.”
Bell told Global News couldn’t be happier.
“Sometimes miracles happen,” he said.
As for the thieves, Bell said karma will take care of them.