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International Volunteer Day — Meet Dawn

December 5th is International Volunteer Day. It’s a day to acknowledge and celebrate volunteers and volunteerism. This year’s theme is “the power of collective action: if everyone did.” Imagine what the world would be like if everyone volunteered. Volunteers are often at the frontline during a crisis.

Volunteers are an invaluable resource and play a vital role in supporting youth and staff at CHV.

Meet Dawn

Dawn has been volunteering at CHV for almost a decade (her 10-year anniversary at CHV is just over a month away).

Dawn has been retired for approximately 10 years. She loves being retired. Dawn spends her time with visits to/from her adult children, she helps her daughter garden, she reads, goes for walks, plays Scrabble and cards with friends and volunteers at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Women in Film, and at CHV.

Dawn has always volunteered in the kitchen at CHV. She started in the old building at 1280 Seymour. At that time, the building didn’t have the level of facilities that the 10-storey one does now, so most of the food was delivered from the Pender building.

When a position in the kitchen opened up, Dawn was called, and she’s been actively supporting youth through nutrition ever since. Originally, Dawn would serve dinner to youth once a week, and would also come in on Sundays to make PB&J sandwiches for CSS, the front desk (in case youth would come in looking for food), and possibly for bag lunches for youth attending school or work. “Back then I could make and package 70 sandwiches in one hour!”

“The new kitchen in the Drake building is a beautiful kitchen. It’s wonderful to work in. When working in the kitchen, we mainly do food prep — peeling veggies, cutting veggies, slicing loaves, and sometimes helping to prepare the lunch for that day. At 11:40, we get ready to serve the lunch. There are two of us volunteers working together. Once lunch service is over, we help clean up, put away the ketchup, mayonnaise etc. and wipe down the counters.”

Dawn volunteers in the kitchen on Wednesdays. “Wednesday can be a bit of a busy day because it’s also a delivery day. It can be super, super busy because they’re bringing food in, and people are having to help getting all the food stored away. So, it’s an interesting day. I enjoy it. It’s lots of fun. Very superb group of people. Most days, I have lunch [at CHV] when I finish my shift.”

“The demographic [of youth] has changed so much since I first started. When I first started, I would say it was all Canadian youth, and now they’re from all over the place. I’ve talked to a couple of youth from other countries, and it’s kind of scary what they left behind — they escaped, basically.”

Dawn described what it’s like to volunteer in the kitchen at CHV. “It anchors my week. They always say to me when I come in, ‘How was your weekend?’ I say, ‘Well, every day’s a weekend for me, except Wednesday for my work.’ I really look forward to it. I really enjoy it. I definitely feel appreciated. The staff are always thanking me.”

“I was talking to one of the youth workers at lunch today who works there [CHV] for two days a week. She goes to school and she’s doing an internship somewhere, but she said she loves it [working at CHV]. She loves the atmosphere. She loves the fact that it’s so organized and well done.”

Why does Dawn volunteer? “Giving back is and always has been important to me. I feel it is a way to make your life meaningful.” Dawn really enjoys volunteering and is encouraging her adult children to do the same. “My kids have been very fortunate, and I say that one of the things that you should do when you have been fortunate is to give back.”

In addition to volunteering in the kitchen, Dawn also volunteers every year to help fill backpacks, during the Backpack Campaign. Dawn finds filling the backpacks to be much easier in the new building. “Last Christmas, doing it in the new building, I think we were done in a quarter of the time that it used to take us in the old building.”

“Organizations, such as Covenant House, are more and more important as there are so few resources available to young people, especially those who do not fit the norm — [those who have] physical, mental, emotional challenges, substance challenges, and/or those whose families are not equipped to deal with the ensuing struggles.”

If you would like to support vulnerable youth in the community, there are many ways to get involved with CHV. You can volunteer (the holidays are a busy time), mentor, and there are many ways that you can donate to CHV.

Thank you, Dawn for being an inspiration and supporter of youth in the community. On behalf of everyone at CHV, happy International Volunteer Day to everyone out there who gives from the heart!