Volunteer Voices

At the heart of Parkgate’s many programs and services is a core of dedicated and talented volunteers who help our community thrive. We sat down with four of this year’s volunteer award recipients at volunteer appreciation week to learn a little more about how they got started with volunteering, what motivates them, and their suggestions on how to get started.

Alex Ridgley: A Heart for Art

Award recipient for their dedication and contributions to the youth arts programs at Parkgate Community Centre. 

Parkgate Community Centre has a vibrant youth arts program with many dedicated volunteers, each full of creativity. We sat down to talk with one of these volunteers, Alex Ridgley, to learn more about their volunteer and creative journey. 

Alex’s introduction to Parkgate began in childhood, with pottery classes that sparked a lifelong passion for the arts. As they grew, so did their desire to give back, leading them to volunteer work. “It was so much fun there,” Alex says, recalling their early days shaping clay into tangible memories. 

Beyond Parkgate, Alex’s world is rich with the pages of historical fiction and writing. These personal interests weave into their volunteer work, bringing a level of depth and diversity to their interactions and art that you might expect from someone twice Alex’s age. 

Motivated by fond memories of pottery classes, beloved instructors, and friendships formed over shared creativity, Alex found volunteering the perfect avenue to reconnect and contribute. “I just wanted to connect with these people more.” Alex reflects on being too old to attend classes with one of her favourite childhood instructors. 

Volunteering has been more than just an activity for Alex; it’s been a journey of personal growth, particularly with social skills. “You get to be put in situations with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with.” This has led Alex to feel more confident and better prepared to navigate social situations. 

The pottery and art programs remain Alex’s favourites, where they’ve helped shape not just clay but also young minds. From bowls to mugs to animals, Alex has left a lasting mark in the pottery and art studio.  

For those considering volunteering, Alex has clear advice: “Jump right into it because it’s fun when you get involved.” It’s a call to action and an invitation to experience the rewards of volunteering. 

Liam Walker: A Champion of Youth Sports

Award recipient for their dedication and efforts to the youth sports programs at Parkgate Community Centre. 

Liam Walker began his volunteer journey with Parkgate during the transition from grade seven to eight, a summer that marked the start of a commitment to giving back through youth sports programs. 

Liam’s introduction to Parkgate was unexpected, spurred on by a friend’s invitation to join the fun-filled world of sports volunteering. It didn’t take long for Liam to find his calling on the courts. Despite admitting that academia may not be his favourite pastime, Liam has excelled in a different kind of education, one that involves mentorship and the joy of community service. 

His time at Parkgate is punctuated with memorable experiences, from mentorship with senior instructors to mastering new games and activities. These moments are not just passing memories; they are the building blocks of Liam’s evolving skill set. He speaks of a growing comfort working with children, an improved ability to communicate, and a keen eye for understanding the unique personalities of the young athletes he supports. 

For Liam, every shy child is a challenge to embrace, an opportunity to gently guide them into the fold of teamwork. His strategy is subtle yet effective, fostering inclusion without being overwhelming and always with a supportive nudge towards keeping his kids engaged. 

Among the many programs at Parkgate, it’s the basketball camp that resonates most with Liam. It’s here that his love for the game and his volunteer spirit converge. His advice to those considering volunteering is clear: “Go for it.” The rewards, he assures us, extend beyond personal growth to include social skills and a strong resume. 

Looking ahead, Liam envisions a future with new volunteer experiences, having already been part of the Parkgate and Seymour River Hatchery volunteer programs. He also aspires to a leadership role within the very camps where he volunteers. As Liam continues to shape young athletes’ lives, his story is a testament to the power of volunteerism and sport. 

Mandy Emery: Community and Cuisine

Award recipient for their dedication and contributions to the senior services programs at Parkgate Community Centre. 

Mandy Emery has become a cornerstone of the Parkgate Community Centre’s senior services programs. Her journey from the District of West Vancouver to the heart of the Parkgate kitchen is a story of retirement redefined. 

After a 30-year tenure with the district, Mandy retired and sought a change of pace. She and her family sold their home and settled in the Parkgate area, where she discovered a vibrant community centre bustling with activities and opportunities. It wasn’t long before Mandy found herself donning an apron instead of office attire and trading in spreadsheets for recipes. 

Mandy’s venture into the culinary world was a leap out of her comfort zone. Never having worked in a restaurant, she embraced the challenge with open arms. Her dedication to providing high-quality, home-cooked meals for seniors has not only brought joy to many but has also given her a sense of exhilaration working in the fast-paced environment of a kitchen. 

In her 1.5 years as a volunteer, Mandy has discovered the diverse nature of Parkgate, describing it as a “little gem” teeming with programs that cater to all ages. Her experiences range from the festive St. Patrick’s Day tea to summer barbecues. Through volunteering, Mandy has honed her culinary skills, especially when it comes to more diverse ethnic foods. Her artistic side continues to flourish as well, as Mandy participates in pottery, drawing, and watercolour classes alongside her beloved fitness program. 

For those considering volunteering, Mandy’s advice is to embrace the unfamiliar. Volunteering for Mandy offers a chance to explore paths untrodden, to learn, and to grow beyond one’s professional experience. As for her future, Mandy looks forward to continuing her volunteer service and is eagerly anticipating the summer’s community events.

Evelyn Crump: Crafting Youth Connections

Award recipient for their dedication and contributions to the youth services programs at Parkgate Community Centre.

Evelyn Crump’s time with the Parkgate Society highlights the significant role that volunteers play in supporting youth services. Their commitment to the community and the programs at Parkgate Community Centre showcase the creative impact a volunteer can have. 

Evelyn has been a volunteer since August, starting with the grade six and seven dances. Their involvement quickly expanded to the Youth Centre’s Dungeons and Dragons program, where they brought adventures to life through their artistic talents, sketching the unfolding stories on the whiteboard as campaigns are played. 

Motivated by a desire to give back to the programs that shaped their own youth, Evelyn found a sense of belonging within Parkgate. They describe the community as “very kind and supportive,” a place where meeting different people and enjoying the company of staff and volunteers is part of the daily routine. 

Evelyn’s most cherished moments come from the Dungeons and Dragons program, where laughter and inside jokes create a bond with the youth. Since ninth grade, Evelyn has been playing D&D, even leading campaigns for their sister and friends, showcasing their leadership and creativity. 

Volunteering has also been a journey of personal development for Evelyn. Grappling with social anxiety like many folks, they now embrace the opportunity to engage in conversations and social interactions, honing their communication skills and bolstering their confidence. 

For those considering volunteering, Evelyn’s advice is simple: “Reach out.” Looking ahead, Evelyn plans to continue their involvement with the Youth Centre as they continue to find joy and fulfilment in the space. 

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