When the pandemic hit, “Papa” Moe Laberge, 81, suddenly had more time on his hands. He didn’t want to spend it in front of a screen.
“I don’t really check my emails and I’m not very good with computers,” Laberge said, standing in his double car garage in Alberta Beach, west of Edmonton, which now doubles as a wood workshop.
Laberge estimates he’s spent between 4,000 and 6,000 hours working on birdhouses since fall 2019.
He had previously been building birdhouses as a hobby, but things really ramped up in March 2020. In his first year, he assembled and sold an estimated 150 birdhouses, with all $8,000 in proceeds going to the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
“The purpose of this is for the kids,” said Leberge, who said two of his grandsons have received treatment at the Stollery. But it was a trip to the Cross Cancer Institute for his own radiation therapy that left a deep impression.
“A family was going through (the Cross) and their young child was going through. The little fella was so sick and you couldn’t tell whether he was two, five or seven (years old). And that really bothered me.”
Since then, the 81-year-old retiree, who used to work in home construction, tried to increase his annual donations. Selling the birdhouses became a way to do that.
“Maybe (they’ll) find a cure for something, you know?” said Laberge.
Over the past year, the birdhouse hobby picked up even more steam. He worked in the garage six days per week, six hours per day.
“I didn’t work on Sundays. I took the day off,” he chuckled.
Neighbours and local companies got involved, designing artwork for the birdhouses and donating wood and supplies.
“I’d get up in the morning and there’s two pieces of 1×6 on the driveway. Who dropped it off? I don’t know,” said Laberge. “Without the people around here, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Laberge estimates he constructed between 300 and 350 birdhouses which he’s now actively trying to sell. His goal is raising $15,000.
“So give’r,” joked Leberge, who encourages anyone who wants a birdhouse to call him, while supplies last.
Laberge said he’s going to have to wind down the birdhouse building to focus on his health. He hopes his hobby inspires others to do anything positive that makes a difference in someone else’s life.
“It’s the little things. It doesn’t take much to be nice to people.”
Laberge can be reached at 780-924-3395.