Sharing the Gift of Time

By Judee Fong

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Guided by their passions, interests, altruism and personal growth, volunteers pass through the doors of Volunteer Victoria (VolVic) seeking the perfect niche.

“These people may be newcomers to Victoria, newly retired or simply want to volunteer a bit of their time,” says Executive Director Lisa Mort-Putland. “They may want to try something different, not what they’ve been doing at work. Volunteering at something different gives them that bit of a change.”

Anyone who wants to volunteer is given an opportunity, even when volunteers come with preferences and/or boundaries. The dedicated VolVic staff will sit down and talk to them about their time commitment, the logistics, their passions, interests and other acceptable options.

Like job-sharing, volunteers have been known to “volunteer-share” their time and days. VolVic believe in developing the quality of volunteering, not solely providing volunteers.

One of the 350-member agencies using the services and benefits of VolVic is the SPCA. Dependable, committed people are always needed to care for and cuddle dogs, cats, birds and other small animals waiting for their forever homes. The most visible volunteers are an enthusiastic band of dog-walkers, who faithfully walk their four-legged friends in all kinds of weather.

Dedicated volunteers at the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association share their time helping disabled children and adults enjoy the healing and learning aspects of horseback riding.

For anyone who loves gardening, volunteers are welcome to join the group of Friends of Government House Gardens, and non-gardeners are needed for the tearoom, gift shop and costume museum.
Youth volunteers are inspired to give back to their communities and gain valuable experience via volunteer opportunities through their schools/universities and other sources. VolVic offers more prospects through their “Youth Volunteer Connections Program.”

Volunteer Victoria’s “Management Assistant Program” is a pool of volunteers who are highly skilled in specific areas: leadership, strategic decision making, human resources, program evaluations, accounting and more. These volunteers will take on a project for an organization or small business over a short period of time ranging from one day to a few months. They help mentor and teach skills to run the business, like an accountant to look over the business plan and/or set up a bookkeeping system or an expert in human resources who can detail job requirements.

Community Development and Membership Coordinator George Colussi works with individuals and groups in the 350 non-profit member agencies.

“One of our new member agencies came to us a few months ago asking for help because their core group of volunteers had been with them for 25 years. Even though the volunteers loved the work, they were getting tired. This organization was looking for a few younger volunteers with a very specific skill-set. By joining Volunteer Victoria, they gained access to the members’ services and managed to get the word out about their specific volunteer needs. I spoke to the Executive Director four weeks later and he said, ‘George, thank you. Volunteer Victoria has saved my organization. We now have five key volunteers that absolutely match the skill-set we were looking for. They have reinvigorated all of us and we are back!’”  

VolVic offers more complex volunteering such as the “Volunteer Access Program.” Corinne Mah and Lornna Olson, who job-share as Volunteer Access Coordinators, have helped numerous clients become successful volunteers.

“The Access Program provide extra support to clients with mental health and/or substance use challenges, finding them volunteer positions when they are ready. We do a consultation with the clients to discover their strengths and challenges. This process takes time, depending upon each individual’s recovery and how comfortable he/she feels in volunteering.”

At any given moment, the Volunteer Access Program has 50 non-profit VolVic member agencies with volunteer positions. These agencies understand and accept volunteers with different needs.

“We have volunteers in areas ranging from food kitchens, gardening and working with the Green Team to writing corporate reports,” says Corinne. “Not everyone struggling with mental health or substance use is street level; hence the wide range. They are from all sectors of society… who are not quite ready to return to work, but would like a volunteer niche they would be comfortable filling.”  

The Volunteer Access program also utilizes many student volunteers from the University of Victoria’s Social Services or Education fields. Volunteers are paired with mental health clients who are starting their recovery and need support in their day-to-day activities.
VolVic’s “Recreation and Visiting” program matches volunteers with adults living in mental health group homes. Devoted volunteers provide friendship and support, help build confidence and motivate the adults towards healthy independence.
Volunteer Victoria boasts a group of loyal volunteers within their own organization.

“Lindsay Straith, our newest volunteer at six months, is working the front desk and providing impeccable customer service,” says George. “Sylvia Bachop is a 26-year motivated volunteer, who adds immense value to our work place. Shelagh Rea, still gifts us with her presence, dedication and commitment after 10 years. Every time I see Sylvia, Shelagh, Lindsay and all our other volunteers, I think that’s a success story.”
Shelagh responds, “It shows that we love what we do and Volunteer Victoria appreciates what we do, so we stay.”

“I remember this phenomenal lady, working full-time and raising her family,” adds Lisa Mort-Putland. “When we talked about her volunteering, I said, ‘You managed to squeeze it in despite your very hectic life.’ She said, ‘You know why I do it? Because it’s the only place that acknowledges what I’ve done when someone says, ‘Thank you.’”

For more information, visit or call 250-386-2269 or email

Victoria SPCA: Nicole Reinelt, Volunteer Coordinator, call 250-388-7722
Friends of Government House Gardening: Nairn Hollott, call 250-744-4019
Government House Non-Gardening: Angela Newton, email
Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association (VTRA): Jessica Game, email or call 778-426-0506.




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