Familiar Faces Make Airport a Big Part of Community

3 March 2015

Want to meet the familiar faces of your friends and neighbours from Yellow Point and Ladysmith?

Head to Nanaimo Airport.

That’s where you’ll find plenty of familiar faces, among both the passengers enjoying the convenience of local air travel, and the friendly Blue Navigators ambassadors who help them seven days a week.

The volunteers provide “invaluable assistance and hospitality to the travelling public to enhance the overall passenger experience,” says Laurie Hawthornthwaite, the airport’s customer care adviser.

Nearly a quarter of the Blue Navigators — recognizable for their cheery smiles and distinctive blue vests — hail from Ladysmith/Yellow Point. And they see plenty of fellow residents while on the job, helping passengers with everything from baggage tagging to directions.

“Oh yes, so many friends and neighbours come through here,” says volunteer Kathleen Ball, a 3-year Ladysmith resident, who joined the team in June 2013.

The Blue Navigators are like a family — and not just because they work closely together. There are also actual family connections.

Ball’s husband, Tony, for example, became a Navigator last October. A long-time transportation buff, he finds the role rewarding and never dull. “It’s quite an interesting thing to do.”

Another Ladysmith resident, Blair Beeston, signed up in January 2014 and then was joined last month by mom Deena. Blair, the youngest Navigator, says she especially enjoys the social aspect of volunteering at the airport. “It’s really neat seeing how happy people can be.”

Those happy travellers are constantly expressing their appreciation for the assistance, says Cassidy resident Jim Cirka, who became one of the first Navigators when the service program was launched in June 2012. “We get paid by smiles and thank yous,” he says.