Current employer or place of business: Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
Organization(s) I volunteer with: Children’s Center, SHARE, Walk/n/Knock, community projects that I learn about either through community groups and/or Facebook.
How I got involved: When I first moved to Vancouver 25 years ago, my oldest son had just died of bacterial meningitis. I needed to do something to get outside myself and I found a volunteer job at the hospital working Friday nights outside the ICU making coffee for families whose lives were in crisis. I found healing in that work simply by being present and compassionate. I feel better when I am in service to people. In my jobs I have been fortunate to be in contact with many groups that do good things in the community. When I’m asked to help I try always to say yes. When I see something I can do I try to always say yes.
Why I give back: I continue to find volunteer opportunities everywhere I look because I get a chance to give back what was so freely given to me. I don’t formally volunteer with organizations as much as I grab onto opportunities I see on Facebook and through my networks of friends and colleagues. When it’s time to sing Christmas carols at senior centers, I go. When it’s time to help collect food for Walk/n/Knock, I show up. When parents are grieving, I reach out. My volunteer work is very organic in nature. I try to pay attention to what God puts on my path so I can be of service.
Proudest moment as a volunteer: We all make a difference in big ways and little ways – often we don’t know how or what we do will make a difference. That’s not of my control so it’s hard to say there’s a proud moment. I can say that I have been blessed to have people come up to me years later and remind me of something I did or said that helped them or made a difference. Then I know I am connected and that I’m allowing God to use me in a way that helps people.
What local challenge or issue are you most passionate about? I have a sticky note on my computer that says “help people.” That’s been my mission statement as long as I can remember: in my work life and my personal life. I try to live out my core values in everything I do. I experienced hardships as a child that have shaped my passions – to serve children, protect them, empower them and love them. I am passionate about our work at Children’s Center because we are providing care and comfort and hope. Mental health and addiction are underlying issues in every community. We can improve the quality of life for our families and our community by improving access to mental health and addiction services, but programs on their own aren’t enough. We each have an opportunity and a responsibility to be part of the solution.
Mental health and addiction are often dismissed as other people’s problems or the result of bad choices. That creates a danger of separating our community into “us versus them.” To address the problems we have to acknowledge the problems, discard the shame so often associated with the problem and treat people with care and respect.
We all know someone who needs a phone call, a hug or a chance to talk. We all meet people who have that hurting look. When we pay attention we find opportunities to serve. That’s how I like to volunteer.
Just for fun: What are your hidden talents? I’m a pretty average person – I love to sing, but don’t sing well. I love to hike, but don’t like to run. I can square dance and crochet blankets. I am an introvert by nature, but drawn out of my shell usually because of my love for people.
“Paying it Forward: Volunteer Businessperson of the Week” is sponsored by Pacific Continental Bank.