More than 6,000 volunteers at Island Health find many rewards for the more than half million hours they provide of valued service each year. For some, romance turns out to be an added benefit.
"I definitely recommend volunteering. You meet the nicest people," said Dell Finerty, who has been volunteering at Trillium Lodge for the past three years.
Dell is particularly glad that she met Don Clarke, a retired auto mechanic, who has been volunteering at Oceanside-area care facilities for more than 20 years, playing a range of old favourites on the piano for residents, visitors and staff.
Dell's volunteer efforts have involved accompanying residents on outings to hair salons, local shops and neighbourhood walks. Her working life outside the home included several years at the Woodward's department store in Victoria and sewing draperies.
Soon after she began as a volunteer, Dell attended an appreciation tea at the lodge. Her daughter, Janie Finerty, is Manager of Volunteer Resources for Oceanside and Port Alberni and recalls Don approaching her at the event to ask for a favour.
"He came up to me after the party and asked for a pen. I said I would go find him one and he laughed and said he wanted to get that cute little lady's phone number. When I looked to where he was pointing, it was my mom," Janie said.
Don and Dell hit it off and now go on frequent dinner dates and other outings. In 2013, they travelled to the Maritimes to visit relatives. It was also a part of the country where Don has his musical roots.
"I used to play the accordion in a band and every Saturday night we'd play at the Malagash Salt Miners Hall in Nova Scotia," Don recalled. "They paid us eight dollars."
Both Dell and Don had been lonely at times following the deaths of their spouses and said volunteering is a great way to socialize.
"When you're home all the time, you don't get to meet people," Don said.
Volunteering is also an excellent way to stay active. When asked about Valentine's Day, Dell said they will get around to making plans soon. "We've been too busy," she said with a smile.
— Submitted by Island Health