It seems apropos that aspiring artist Mike Hunniford’s business card is nothing more than a coffee sleeve with his name and number penned across it. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

VIDEO: Recovering addict shares art and story to motivate others

A Langley City man spends time each day painting in McBurney Plaza.

This Christmas is a little harder than many in past for Mike Hunniford, who recently lost his surrogate grandmother and best friend to cancer.

But, nevertheless, the recovering alcoholic is anxious to share just a sampling of the support that she and others have showed hime in the past eight years – helping him move off the streets and helping him to get and remain sober.

The 70-year-old woman, who was in the (Alcoholics Anonymous) program for some 20 years. She pulled Hunniford out of the bushes in front of the Starbucks on Fraser Highway eight years back.

“She found me and took me home,” Hunniford explained.

He was a drunk and homeless at the time and likely facing an imminent death sentence if he didn’t change his ways.

His “angel” was instrumental in helping Hunniford find the assistance he needed to turn his life around, including offering friendship when few others would.

She also introduced him to a veteran Langley outreach worker Fraser Holland, who was an invaluable resource for Hunniford get him connected with housing and many other support services.

“There’s some good people in this community,” Hunniford said.

He remained close friends with his “angel” until her recent death.

“Christmas without her is hard,” he said.

Today, to honour her, he paints pictures every day in downtown Langley City.

But still, every day during the last seven months, rain or shine, Hunniford has been found with his makeshift artists easel, bottles of acrylic paints, and a shopping cart full of canvases and other painting supplies – camped out at the entrance to McBurney Plaza.

He’s there sharing smiles, chatting with passersby, and giving away smiles and his art to those who seem truly interested.

“It fills me with joy and love,” he said of his painting.

“And I give them away… I give them to people who like them and enjoy them, and will hang them up. They have to hang them up, that’s one of the rules,” he added with a coy smile.

Hunniford is easy to pick out in the crowd at McBurney. A cross tattooed on his cheek and smile on his face, he’s typically the guy at the side or in front of the McBurney Coffee & Tea House with his paint splattered and well-worn leather jacket.

Even though this Christmas season has been harder than most for Hunniford, a recent gesture from an anonymous person reassured him there is still great kindness in the world.

This most recent “sweet gesture” came in the shape of a gift box that was mysteriously left next to his easel last week.

Inside, he discovered a care package complete with soup, muffins, some other baked goods, and one of the best gifts he could ever ask for – more paint supplies.

“It helps me out,” he said, anxious to say thanks for these and all the other gifts – tangible and non-tangible – that he’s received through the years.

Now, he’s hoping to keep paying it forward.

He considers himself among the fortunate. He’s lost many friends to alcohol, drugs, and life on the street.

And Hunniford hopes he can offer just a smidgen of the support he’s received through the years – be it becoming a friendly ear to talk to for people living with mental illness, addiction, or homelessness, or whether it’s offering hope and advise to loved ones who struggle as they watch family member or friends dealing with the same.

It’s about education and compassion, he said. Often the disenfranchised are at or near an all-time low in their life, but they are still fellow human beings – they’re still someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife, grandchild or spouse, Hunniford said, and people simply have to tap into their humanity.

“We have to care and love them, please,” he said. “Remember that at this time of the year, and all year around.”


Just Posted

Metro gas prices hit 155.7 cents a litre and higher

Lower Mainland could see 1.60 cents by April

BREAKING: Patient airlifted from two-vehicle crash in Langley Wednesday morning

Fraser Highway at 232nd Street is closed in both directions. People are asked to find another route.

Proposed slaughterhouse in South Langley evokes considerable ire

Large delegation of Langley residents came out to oppose a poultry abattoir.

Cloverleaf Preschool must find new home after 26 years in Cloverdale community

Christ the Redeemer Church terminated tenancy, finding 86-year-old Bell Hall unsafe

LETTER: Lack of tree protection for Langley short-sighted but expected

One Langley letter writer calls Township council’s inaction on a tree protection bylaw disappointing.

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

B.C.-pioneered wood construction on a roll internationally

Washington state considers mandatory engineered wood for public buildings

Cops say gun-toting robbers used fake police lights to pull over victims

Information wanted on North Shuswap robbery, police impersonation, burnt vehicle, motorhome theft.

BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles and Powell River Kings close to advancing

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

VSO to perform ‘Star Wars’ music while 1977 movie plays on big screen

Three shows for the classic at iconic Orpheum Theatre this summer

B.C. emergency alert system being tested Wednesday

Alarm tone and message will play on TV and radio

BC Conservatives pumped by poll results

Surge in popularity has BC party picturing elected representatives in Victoria

5 to start your day

A serious crash in Langley, Surrey man wanted in connection to vicious assault and more

Most Read