Celebrating the sector’s volunteers during National Volunteer Week!

National Volunteer Week takes place from April 24 – 30 and provides an opportunity to recognize and pay tribute to Canada’s 24 million volunteers. This year’s theme is “Volunteering Is Empathy in Action.”

Last month, BC Care Providers Association and EngAge BC put out a call to our members, asking operators to share stories and accolades about some of their most notable volunteers.

Volunteers enrich the organizations they contribute to and support the quality of life of seniors living in long-term care, assisted living and independent living residences. At BCCPA and EngAge BC, we feel privileged to learn about volunteers across the province who contribute so much at our member communities. Submissions profiled volunteers ranging from first year undergraduate students to a palliative care volunteer in their mid-eighties.

Here below we showcase our member submissions.

Shirley Friesen


Shirley Friesen, 85, has spent over 4,000 hours in the last seven years sitting quietly with, holding hands, reading to, and comforting residents on their final journey in life. In these holy moments – which can also be restless and anxious times – Shirley volunteers her time to be with those who do not have family or friends nearby. Shirley’s “empathy in action” has also inspired others to become palliative volunteers,” says Menno Place in their submission.

“It’s been a huge gift to Menno Place to have these volunteers and Shirley really got it started and I’m so grateful to her,” says Menno Place Chaplain, Ingrid Schultz.

“Shirley gives of herself, her time, and her love and it’s a very precious gift” adds Menno Place CEO, Karen Biggs.

The following video shares more of Shirley’s story and why she continues this very important work at Menno Place.

Shirley Friesen (Menno Place volunteer)
Shirley Friesen

Paul Dosanjh

Paul Dosanjh
Paul Dosanjh

Paul Dosanjh has proven to be an inspirational leader and exemplary role model having volunteered approximately 34,000 hours by working 40 hours per week with PICS Society. His lengthy volunteer history includes serving the PICS Society since 2002. He has supported the residents at its Seniors Housing Assisted and Independent Living residences in Surrey…Utilizing his substantial knowledge, skills and experiences in a professional capacity, he has played an important role as advocate to help advance PICS Society’s mission which is to promote harmony and intercultural understanding for the purpose of building a more inclusive and mutually respectful society. His considerable involvement and contributions in the various fundraising, social and cultural events held in conjunction with many community and educational partners is remembered with gratitude.

One of Paul’s greatest attributes is that he cares deeply about the well-being of others and has gained the trust of the seniors who regularly confide in him. Listening with a kind and sympathetic ear, he enthusiastically assists, educates and encourages the seniors to make their own life choices and to voice their opinions, including the care they receive,” says Satbir Cheema, PICS Society’s President & CEO.



Laura Cunningham

Laura Cunningham
Laura Cunningham

Pam Sikma, Volunteer Coordinator, Hallmark on the Lake, Hallmark on the Park & Inglewood Care Centre, shared that Laura Cunningham is the “the ideal student volunteer for Baptist Housing.”

“We are blessed to have such a servant-heart for Inglewood! Laura has been volunteering at Inglewood since she was in Grade 5!  Maybe one recalls the bracelet looming craze?  She had her entire class looming bracelets at recess and at lunch for a couple weeks; then delivered them to Inglewood on Valentine’s Day. She had also made about 40 Valentine Cards and spent much of the day helping residents pick from among the many bracelets she’d brought along.  After that visit, Laura was hooked on volunteering with our elders. That same year, her Mom helped her make her first Gingerbread House and it’s been a tradition ever since to create annual houses to bring joy into the lives of Inglewood residents,” says Pam.

“Throughout the years, Inglewood has always let Laura just be self-directed in her interactions. She’s made many crafts, brought candy jars and flower posies, cultivated and donated plants, played piano, taken Instax photos and written short memoirs to leave residents, and written over 1000 cards and letters. Often, she “just sits and listens to the wonderful stories of lives well-lived.”


Robyn Kelly

Robyn Kelly
Robyn Kelly (& Richard)

“I would like to mention some much appreciated volunteers at Heritage Square in Vernon B.C.,” says Jeff Butters, Recreation Therapist, Kaigo Senior Living, Creekside Landing, Heritage Square, Pioneer Square.

Robyn Kelly has been volunteering with us since 2015.  She has such a caring and compassionate heart for the people living at Heritage Square.  Over the years she has spent many hours providing one to one companionship for long term care residents. In addition, she has provided leadership to an evening physical games program for our Assisted Living tenants.  This provides our tenants an opportunity to play adapted physical games such as bowling, floor curling, shuffleboard, bocce, balloon tennis and more!  The opportunity for exercise and socialization that Robyn provides is priceless!

“Robyn has expressed countless times how much enjoyment she gets out of volunteering at Heritage Square.  It must be true because her husband Richard has joined her and has been volunteering with her for over a year!  Together they are a dynamic duo bringing their enthusiasm and kindness to the people living at Heritage Square and we can’t say thank you enough to them both!”


Wray Parsons

Wray Parsons
Wray Parsons

Nanaimo Travellers Lodge Society which owns and operates Eden Gardens is a registered charity that relies on generous volunteers to round out its many programs. “One of the biggest challenges for our residents (Elders) is the loneliness, boredom and helplessness associated with dementia. We would like to nominate posthumously our volunteer Wray Parsons who we lost in March of this year to some long-standing health issues. Wray helped us to create an enriched environment in which the residents could experience their lives to the fullest, and he worked hard to connect the community with Eden Gardens, one project at a time,” says Eden Gardens staff.

“Wray used his woodworking skills to create projects that we will treasure forever. He sourced donations of wood from the community, partnered with friends who could add their skills to his creations, and provided many items towards our fundraising efforts. With one of our family members, Wray tirelessly embarked on many projects for the residents to complete, including benches, birdhouses, wayfinding signs, reindeer, raised garden stands, and even angels that they have enjoyed sanding, piecing together and painting. He has created some amazing experiences for all involved. Eden Gardens is so fortunate to have had such a creative volunteer whose work has benefitted residents, their families, and the staff and established so many wonderful memories that we will all cherish for years to come!”


Sarah Sutton and Loan Nguyen

When Revera Living’s Lakeview Care Centre residents were asked about the volunteers they think should be recognized, they spoke to the special efforts of Sarah Sutton and Loan Nguyen.

According to one resident, Sarah is very sweet and compassionate, possesses a vibrant personality and is easy to talk to. She is a good conversationalist and listens eagerly when resident share their stories. She also shares her own stories from her travels and about her cat which the residents find interesting and enjoyable to listen to.

Likewise, Loan Nguyen is a hairdresser who has been offering free haircuts since she started volunteering. The residents are always looking forward to her visits and are very thankful for the service she’s providing.

“I would like to give kudos to them for their exceptional contribution to the lives of our elderly friends. They might not realize the impact of their presence. Our elderly friends might forget the things that happened that day, but the feeling of happiness remains,” says Sarah and Loan’s nominator.



Karim Chagani

Karim Chagani
Karim Chagani

“Over the last eight years, Karim Chagani has provided social and individual services to older adults at Cascade Gardens Seniors Community in Burnaby. He has worked closely with management and staff, providing voluntary services every day for three hours throughout the year. This included brining specialty cultural foods and using technology devices to enable older adults to connect with their loved ones. Karim is very dedicated and committed. He has tremendous capacity to understand human health, fairness, social equity and appreciating cultural differences. These values are reflected in his volunteer services,” says Al Jina, President, Park Place Seniors Living.

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Are you interested in volunteering with one of our members, and making a difference with seniors in your community? Visit Route 65 to locate an organization in your community.

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