Volunteering on the Coast

Hardly a week goes by when we are not supposed to be marking or observing or celebrating something. Most of us probably missed Talk Like Shakespeare Day on April 23, and you might not be particularly interested in Hairball Awareness Day on April 28. But there is one commemoration going on right now that you should pay attention to: National Volunteer Week, April 23-29.

The Sunshine Coast is rife with volunteer opportunities — and some of them might surprise you. The Sunshine Coast Volunteer Centre this week has postings for shoreline cleanup workers, readers at Sechelt Community School, greeters for the Sechelt Farmers and Artisans Market and fish feeders at the Chapman Creek Hatchery, plus many more.

One organization that appeals to a wide range of volunteers with a wide range of skills is Habitat for Humanity Sunshine Coast (HFHSC).

Ken Lee was a pilot and engineer until he retired to the Sunshine Coast in 2004. On Monday of this week, he was grouting tiles in the bathroom of a new duplex being built at Habitat Village in Wilson Creek.

“This is the first time I ever grouted,” he says before breaking for lunch. Other days, he may be putting up vapour barrier, painting, framing, installing trim… you name it. He’s one of Habitat’s most tireless volunteers.

“Well, I wouldn’t say tireless,” he says. There are times when he is pretty tired at the end of a day — but in a good way. He figures he puts in a thousand hours a year at the building site. Why does he do it? “For most of my working life, I was away from home six months of the year. I was never around to get involved in my community. I figured now was a good time to start giving back.”

As he works at the site, he takes great satisfaction watching Habitat Village’s 13 kids playing in their new yards. “We are breaking the cycle of poverty.”

But volunteering for Habitat for Humanity doesn’t only involve raising walls and swinging a hammer. Volunteers also work on Habitat’s website, or do interior design. Others are signing up to be spotters for Habitat Fore Humanity’s Fathers’ Day Golf Tournament June 17 at Blue Ocean Golf Course. And the recycling depot and ReStore are always looking for help.

“Our Volunteers bring incredible skill sets to Habitat Sunshine Coast,” says HFHSC executive director . “Where else can you spend your days alongside brilliant minds who have been professors, data analysts, commercial pilots, and doctors to name a few, all sharing a common passion for building homes on the Sunshine Coast.”

Volunteers have a passion for helping others. As Lee says, “volunteering is an expression of what you believe in.” But volunteers do it for themselves, too. Lee cites a study done by an airline that found the average life expectancy of pilots after they retire is less than five years.

“You have all that responsibility, and you have learned to do something really well, then… nothing,” Lee says. “Volunteering is better and cheaper than sitting in a bar,” waiting to die.

If you would like to start giving back to your community, check out the Sechelt Volunteer Centre website at www.scvolunteer.com. If you want to help out at Habitat for Humanity Sunshine coast, call executive director at 604-885-6737.