It’s an understatement to say that Deborah has experience with people. For 32 years, she worked as Director of Event Operations at BC Place, ensuring that stadium concerts, soccer games, and special presentations all went off without a hitch. “The event business has great similarities with what happens at UGM,” she says. “It’s about being amongst people.”
An active, lifelong Vancouverite, Deborah found herself at loose ends after retiring in 2014. Not the type to sit still, she began to brainstorm how she’d like to spend the next phase of her life. “When I was working downtown, I would walk past UGM every morning,” she recalls. “I started to see what they were doing in the Thrift Store, the people coming and going. UGM piqued my imagination, so I went online to see what opportunities were available for volunteers.”
For Deborah, the variety of options for volunteering was a real draw. Since connecting with UGM, she’s volunteered at Summer Connect and the annual Summer BBQs, in the kitchen at The Sanctuary, assisted with lunch service at The Cornerstone, and as part of the team at the Eastsiders After School Program. This year, she’s trying out her first shifts with the Fraser Valley Mobile Mission, a new step in her goal of connecting with more people and better understanding where her neighbours are coming from.
“Before I started volunteering with UGM, I had a lot of — probably common — questions about why people were sleeping on the street,” she says. “Now, I’ve talked with people and heard their stories, and it’s given me so much insight.” When she met one community member who had recently lost his housing, they connected over shared interests. “He had his guitar along with his bags,” she recalls. “I asked if he was a musician, and his face lit up. I admitted I only played flute as a child, and he said he played flute back then too, and I thought: wow, he could have been the little boy sitting next to me in school. And, you know, his road just became different from mine.”
As Deborah’s built relationships, she’s been grateful for the chance to be a part of offering support and care to people she meets. “There’s a strong community here, people are there for each other,” she says. “Now, when I walk down the street and see someone who needs help, I'm more able to ask whether they’re okay. It’s all about compassion.”
Every day, caring volunteers like Deborah are making it possible to feed hope and change lives in Metro Vancouver. If you have the hands and heart to help, we invite you to join us: we have a particular need for weekend and on-call long weekend volunteers.
Apply to volunteer online or by emailing email@example.com.
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