Selfless Givers

By Vernice Shostal

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Born in Saskatchewan and raised on Salt Spring Island, lifetime volunteers Sannee McFarlane and her sister, the late Audrey Tappin, both honoured by Pearson United World College in 2009, learned the importance of giving from their mother.

“I remember mother sending me to return a cup of sugar,” says Sannee, “only it was more than a cup and I asked her why? She said, 'If you borrow something, you must always return double, or you can never borrow again,' and it just stayed with me. As a family, we automatically did things for people.”

“Audrey's first job was for a plumbing and electrical outfit - keeping their books,” says Sannee. “Then she moved to Victoria to work for a paint company.” Following her husband wherever his employment led, Audrey worked as a purchasing agent and payroll clerk in Vancouver and an accountant with a television station in Thompson, Manitoba, where she also hosted her own talk show.”

Back in Victoria, after retirement, Audrey canvassed for several charitable organizations and was a dedicated volunteer with Pacific Opera and Musica Victoria. In 1994, Audrey joined the Zonta Club of Victoria, part of an international service organization focused on advancing the status of women worldwide. The same year, a Zonta endowed scholarship, funded by 22 clubs in Alaska, the states of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, was initiated to sponsor a young woman from Central or Eastern Europe to attend Pearson College. The college, one of 13 United World Colleges, aims to promote understanding between nations through education and interaction between young people from different cultures living and working together.

Audrey fell in love with the concept. She greeted students at the airport when they arrived to begin their school year, hosted them in her home during school breaks and collected gifts and funds sent in by the other clubs to present to the students.

“Audrey had a quiet passion,” says current Zonta Victoria Club President Sue Morgan. “She loved birdwatching and music and she enjoyed the students at Pearson because, through them, she had a sense that the world was going to be a better place.”

When Audrey passed away in 2008, she left her entire estate to the Pearson Endowment Fund. A California Oak tree, planted on the campus grounds, honours her contribution.

Also a selfless giver, Sannee, busy with minor hockey, baseball and centennial committees when her children were young, took on new duties when her family grew up. She spent many volunteer hours working for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Victoria Citizenship Council and, for six years, prepared hot dinners for the cast and crew at Pacific Opera rehearsals.

For two decades, Sannee organized the door-to-door Red Shield campaign and currently organizes club volunteers for a day of ringing a Salvation Army kettle bell.

Mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, every December Sannee organizes a working bee to fill approximately 100 diddy bags, Christmas stockings she makes with the help of her son and granddaughter. The stockings for men and women are filled with toiletries donated by Zonta club members and destined for various transition houses: Our Place, Cool Aid, St. John the Divine Church and others. Twice a year, she organizes a bridge tea and bake sale at St. Matthias Church to raise funds for the club.

Active all her life, Sannee still finds time to play bridge and scrabble and enjoys travelling. Her most recent excursion to Egypt and Jordan was an “incredible” experience.

Current Zonta International District Eight chair of the Pearson project, Sannee has worked selflessly to support the college. Like her sister before her, Sannee hosts students during school breaks. She takes time to tote gifts to the students on special occasions and acts as a liaison between the college and the clubs of the Pacific Northwest. Last year, much to Sannee’s surprise, Pearson recognized her generosity and dedication to the students by presenting her with a yak wool scarf and naming her a patron of the college.

To donate to Pearson, call Louisette Liggett at 250-391-2481 or email For Gift Planning, Bequests, Charitable Gift Annuities, Life Insurance and RRIF/RRSPs contact Grant Monck, LLB, Director of Development, 250-391-2413 or email

For information about the Zonta Club of Victoria, visit

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Showing 1 to 1 of 1 comments.

Sannee is the most amazing woman I Know! And awesome mother, friend and volunteer.

Posted by Dawna Kerr | November 2, 2016 Report Violation

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