Beryl Itani has dedicated much of her time over the years to causes like Snowfest and Sunshine Theatre, but is perhaps most widely known for coordinating volunteers during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fire in Kelowna.
Now retired, she still volunteers in the Emergency Social Services Program, which she ran on behalf of the Regional District of Central Okanagan for 30 years. When fire recently broke out at the Highlands Retirement home, Beryl was right there making sure people were taken care of.
“I got to be the meeter and greeter, directing people – I never got to do that before!” she says. She acknowledges that it’s a miracle that everyone got out alive, and credits the caring citizens who stopped to help.
On the day that I meet with Beryl, she’s coming from a morning of running an adventure camp in her church for four-to-six year old children. She’s even been learning some Spanish for a project that the church is doing with El Salvador.
“They soak up everything like a sponge. They are full of wonderings and questionings, and they have an incredible way of remembering things,” she says. “We’re talking to the kids about how you show love in our church and community. We took them to our thrift shop and explained what happens if you can’t afford clothing. With our food cupboard we said, this is how you show love – you can bring food. Three of the kids brought food so we took them to stock the shelves. We made hearts that said “love is shown here” and put those out at the drop-in coffee service. We put a heart on the offices of the pastors to show love to them. The kids really pick up on this and we’re instilling it in kids. They are the leaders of the future, the ones who will take over.”
These roles are a natural fit for a woman with a passion for helping others, and a true gift of community leadership.
As a long-standing member of the committee that plans the Okanagan Volunteer Opportunities Fair, she encourages others to get involved in their community by volunteering. This year, the Fair will be held on September 8 at Parkinson Recreation Centre from 10 am – 3 pm, so that local citizens can come meet many of the non-profit organizations seeking volunteers.
Beryl has been helping others get involved in community through the Okanagan Volunteer Opportunities Fair for more than a decade.
“I like providing ways for people in the community to understand the opportunities and why you would volunteer,” she says. “It’s the people. I just really like working with the committee. It’s fun to be at the fair, and seeing the interactions between people.”
One thing she emphasizes is that people should find a volunteer position that matches their skills.
“There’s no sense putting a square peg in a round hole, as they say. When I find someone who has the skills that are needed for a position, I really encourage them. You don’t need all the skills and you don’t need to do it the way I would do it. You put your own spin on it, and make it yours.”
To find out more about the Okanagan Volunteer Fair, please click HERE.
To find out how you can be part of change through United Way, please click HERE.