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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
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Spreading joy one basket of fruit at a time
Wally Bogusat picks fresh nectarines that he will package up and give out to people around town. The fruit is excess that won’t be shipped to stores. Some of it was likely not yet ripe or too small to pick during the harvest. (Richard Harley)

Wally Bogusat shares Niagara's delicious bounty with friends, neighbours and strangers

 

Wally Bogusat hates to see food go to waste – especially tree-ripened, Niagara-grown, delicious, healthy fruit.

So the retired grocer has taken it upon himself to spread a little "joy" around the community – and elsewhere – now and then, sharing peaches, grapes, nectarines or other delectables with friends, neighbours and even complete strangers.

"I call it joy fruit," says the Virgil resident. He enjoys giving it away and the recipients get to enjoy tree-ripened fruit.

He has permission from a nearby farmer to pick leftover fruit from their orchard, items that the farm crews didn't choose for shipping but left on the tree to continue ripening. 

"I enjoy wandering through Mother Nature and getting the leftovers, which go to waste. I hate waste and here's something that's going to waste and someone else can enjoy it. So I'm the go-between. I'm the go-fer."

It's also great exercise and he likes being out in the fresh air.

"Some people play sports and have to go out and pay to play the game. I don't have to pay anything. Sometimes I have to carry a basket a few hundred feet when there's not much to be picked. I go down the rows quite a ways and haul them all back."

He's been doing it for years, always with the farmer's blessing. 

Bogusat and his wife Alice get takeout pizza a couple of times a month and the last few times he's shared baskets of fresh fruit with staff at Domino's in Virgil. 

That prompted realtor Lita Hale to post on the NOTL 4 All Facebook page on Monday about Bogusat's "joy fruit" excursions. It attracted more than 500 reactions and comments from people in less than 24 hours.

Her teenaged daughter works at the pizzeria and Hale only knew that a guy named "Wally" periodically dropped off baskets of fruit for the staff. 

She thanked him for his acts of kindness, which set a great example for the kids and exemplify "what it means to be kind and generous in these times where we as Canadians are swept away by the negativity all around us."

For his part, Bogusat, who's 80 and not on Facebook, was "overwhelmed" by the public recognition. 

He doesn't really want to be in the spotlight but if his altruistic actions can inspire other people to do kind deeds, he's good with that.

Bogusat will be well-known to longtime Niagara-on-the-Lake residents as his family for many years operated the MB Foods  grocery store in Virgil – beside where Valu-mart is now.

"Running a business is all about customer service," he said. And his joy fruit endeavours are just an extension of what he's always done.

People occasionally are a bit surprised, even hesitant, "but they look and see, 'This old guy, he's gotta be harmless,' " when they see him with his baskets of fruit.

Sometimes people offer to pay for the fruit he collects so Bogusat said he collects donations and at the end of the year he's able to return "a few hundred dollars" to the farmer.

He and Alice also keep busy helping out at their church, Grace Lutheran in St. Catharines, and Bogusat said he tries to bring along some fruit.

He said he always looks forward to sharing his pickings with the NOTL community, his cottage neighbours near Owen Sound or people he's just met. Wherever he goes, if he can, he'll bring along some fresh Niagara fruit to help spread some joy.

"Do something for other people, that's my motto." 

 

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