April 15-21 marks National Volunteer Week in Canada and you don’t have to look far in the Cowichan Valley to find somebody who gives freely of their time.
Case in point: Don Ward, the driving force in keeping the Duncan Manor seniors’ facility weekly walking group on their feet over the years.
“Don is an asset to the community. His original initiative to support and engage isolated individuals is a strong reflection of what he saw as a need in the community. Connection to one’s community gives individuals a sense of purpose and a more positive outlook on life,” Volunteer Cowichan executive director Jennifer Lazenby said. “Don’s smile, gentle demeanor and laughter makes each Tuesday a treat.
Volunteer Cowichan has been serving the Cowichan region since 1977 and has a core of about 40 active volunteers that do any number of activities not limited to visiting seniors, helping with grocery shopping, facilitating programs and working in the office to connect would-be volunteers to suitable programs and initiatives.
Ward has been part of the team for years.
“I started way back in 1992 when I retired out here. I thought it would be nice visiting with old people,” he said. “We started off visiting one person, Lloyd Hearsey, who owned Hearsey Transport, and he was at Duncan Manor.”
Ward said the activity director at the time was taking residents out on Tuesday mornings for coffee.
“Once Lloyd moved into Cairnsmore Place and I went to see him once and there was somebody in there talking and I thought I would wait outside til they came out. A lady was pushing him out and I realized he had a girlfriend so he didn’t need me anymore!”
Ward went back to Duncan Manor and began his tenure with the walking group, visiting various local eateries over the years.
“Some of the people, it’s the only time they got out. It’s great. They seem to like it,” Ward said. “There’s at least four of us that are doing it and we’ll have anywhere from one to five or six clients that live in Duncan Manor that come out with us.”
Lazenby said he engages and encourages the participants to get out.
“Because of his dedication, those who might drop out without a reasonable excuse are encouraged to participate,” she explained. “And because they are encouraged, participants feel comfortable and safe getting out regularly. His long term commitment to all the participants has a positive effect because they know Don to be trustworthy and caring. Don is the heart and soul of this walking group.”
Ward is currently taking a bit of a break from volunteering but will be back at it again soon.
Those looking for a volunteer opportunity of their own may be interested in signing up to help the Cowichan Valley deliver the 2018 B.C. Summer Games from July 19-22 Register at https://www.bcgames.org.
Volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to gain confidence, meet new people, gain new skills and experience new opportunities. The list of benefits to oneself are numerous. The benefits to community and neighbours are priceless. Plus it’s fun.
For other volunteer opportunities in the region visit Volunteer Cowichan’s website at www.volunteercowichan.bc.ca/