A sense of belonging and freedom surrounds Sue Pitre today, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Her journey began in the quaint French/Irish town of Tignish, nestled along the western tip of Prince Edward Island. At the tender age of 10, Sue discovered her love for singing, as a member of the local church choir. Soon after, she picked up the guitar, marrying a harmonious blend of her voice and the instrument into a true passion.
Life, however, wasn't always smooth sailing for the woman now in her mid-fifties. There was a dark chapter in her past, an abusive relationship she had to escape, and the lingering anxieties that followed as she rebuilt her life. Yet, through it all, music remained her constant source of solace.
Sue's journey led her to a comfortable apartment on the eastern outskirts of Charlottetown nearly six years ago, a place she calls home today. To make ends meet, she initially took a job at Walmart as a cleaner. But fate had other plans, and she soon found herself taking on the role of official store greeter when she stepped in to cover for a fellow staffer, and discovered a knack for engaging with customers in the process.
"At first, people took to my bubbly personality," Sue explains. "Then, one Christmas, I helped the Salvation Army volunteers create excitement around their donation kettle by ringing the bell and adding songs. It resonated with people. Singing for customers became my thing, and I especially love it when children come up to watch."
However, her living situation wasn't always conducive to playing music freely. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sue refrained from playing her beloved guitar during the day, fearing it might disturb her neighbours and draw the ire of her previous landlord.
"Playing music keeps me calm," Sue confides. "Without it, I find myself sinking into depression."
She suggests people in power around the building intimidated her for playing music, which left her feeling anxious and stifled. And she felt her joy slowly slipping away.
Then, a turning point arrived. The old landlords left, and a new sense of freedom dawned upon Sue this past summer, with the arrival of the new building ownership, VIDA. The building became more welcoming towards children, suddenly allowed pets and fostered a different, more inclusive atmosphere focused on community and opportunity.
"I didn’t feel like I needed to stop playing and singing after that," she says. "They just said, 'you be you, Sue.' I felt a real sense of freedom, with no reservations," says Sue. "If there are issues around the building now, I feel there's a more welcomed environment to voice my views."
Sue is now a beloved fixture in Charlottetown. She’s eagerly helped raise money for charity when asked, supporting causes like the IWK Children's Hospital and various food organizations.
"I've helped raise a lot of money,” she notes. “And if you look me up online, I'm known as the singing Charlottetown greeter at Walmart."
Her efforts have also provided opportunities, including singing visits to Toronto and the Walmart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Customers often shower her with praise and encouragement, suggesting she should audition for "Canada's Got Talent."
As Sue reflects on her journey, she can't help but feel deeply grateful for VIDA's welcoming environment.
"VIDA's letting me be free again," she proclaims.
As she looks ahead, Sue’s heart fills with the joy of knowing that, no matter where life took her in the past, her love for music and unwavering spirit will continue to inspire those around her VIDA community in PEI.
VIDA media contact: Joel Goodman, Public Relations, email@example.com