Volunteering is for everyone

By Dorothee Birker

When someone has volunteered 76 of their 85 years, you can believe that they value the opportunities it gives them.

For Irene Draper, starting at a new school in a new town left her feeling lonely and disconnected from her community.

“I never forgot the horrible feeling of being an outsider in a world that was unfamiliar to me,” Irene said. “That experience became a part of who I am.”

Irene, 85, continues to volunteer, helping at her church, Mission Creek Alliance, and at the Kelowna General Hospital and with those who are new to the area, including international students and newcomers settling in Kelowna.

For Irene, volunteering is simply fun and a way to keep her motivated and getting out into the world.

Irene is one of 20 volunteer ambassadors helping KCR Community Resources to share the message that volunteering is not only a benefit to the community, but also to the individual who is sharing their time.

All the ambassadors are 55 and older, have lived full lives and now share their skills, knowledge, passion and community spirit with a variety of community non-profit organizations.

As part of National Volunteer Week (April 18-24), KCR launched our Volunteer55 Program to highlight these great volunteers and the opportunities that exist for the many other seniors in our region who have so much to share with our community.

Cleo Ruffle is another ambassador who was born in Trinidad, pursued nursing in the UK and immigrated to Canada in 1984, finally moving to the Okanagan in 1990.

"Volunteering is very important to me, it is a way for me to give back to my community,” she said. “It's motivating and rewarding to know I make a difference in someone's lonely life.

“My passion has always been helping others.”

As a volunteer at Lake Country Health and Lake Country Seniors Housing Society, Cleo is making a difference, especially during these isolating times during the pandemic.

Cleo’s best advice is “There are many ways to volunteer, choose one that is suitable for you, one which brings joy to your heart and fills a void for someone else."

As with Cleo, many volunteers are often serial volunteers – making a difference at several organizations at the same time.

Dwight Foster, who has been volunteering for more than 25 years, moved to the Okanagan six years ago and has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Club and the United Way.

He is also a volunteer at KCR helping with the resettlement of newcomers.

"Volunteering is a learning experience for you and others. You learn from the experience by being open minded and participatory. The benefits to yourself include self-awareness, boosting your well-being, and knowing that you are helping someone else."

Whether you want to light your passion, enjoy learning, or have fun, volunteering can be a great way to help you achieve your goals. Even during COVID times, there are ways to volunteer that are safe for everyone.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities, get in touch with KCR Community Resources and we can help you get started and to find the perfect opportunity.

Don’t let age get in the way — there are opportunities for those younger and older, and everyone in between. There are hands-on, safe opportunities and there are great virtual or volunteer-from-home opportunities.

The best thing is just to get started. You can find out more at www.kcr.ca or call us at 250-763-8008.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development co-ordinator for KCR Community Resources, a multi-service agency offering projects and programs in four areas: community services, employment services, immigrant services, and family and adoption Services. KCR is also home to the Volunteer Centre of the Central Okanagan. Dorothee can be reached at 250-860-4911 or [email protected].

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