Ethel Robidoux

KCR: Volunteering serves seniors, newcomers and community

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Ethel Robidoux retired from public service in 1994 but hasn’t stopped serving the community, being an active volunteer for a number of organizations.

She is especially active as a board director for the local branch of the National Association of Federal Retirees (Federal Retirees) and at Kelowna General Hospital.

The Federal Retirees organization is the largest national advocacy organization, representing active and retired members of the federal public service, Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and retired federally appointed judges, their partners and survivors.

Federal Retirees has a proud 56-year history of advocacy on behalf of its close to 170,000 members and all retirees. With 79 branches across Canada, they try to improve the lives of all seniors in Canada and can be a local support when seniors have difficulty accessing health and community services.

In addition to her board work, Ethel created the “Care and Concern” program to help Federal Retiree members who were in the hospital.

“I like to help people regardless of what it may be,” said Ethel. “There is always something to do. We help friends with moving. My husband has a pick up truck and we have helped a few newcomer families move.”

Ethel became a volunteer at the Kelowna General Hospital with the Spiritual Care program, following the procedures and protocols for visitations with the hospital and ensuring that everyone, no matter what faith, received a visit from one of the trained volunteers.

In 2000, she moved to the Critical Care Unit to talk with visitors who had loved ones in the unit.

She took on the job of training and scheduling 40+ volunteers to ensure someone was there to cover the three 4-hour shifts, each and every day of the year. While COVID has stalled this program, Ethel is ready to return when able to.

When still working at Employment Canada, Ethel had seen how important it was to get newcomers and refugees to Canada integrated into the workforce.

Once she retired, she immediately focussed on supporting them through coaching and mentoring on Canadian workforce cultures, providing rides to appointments and also teaching ESL to groups and individuals.

“Working with Employment Canada and seeing the need with immigrants and refugees, I recognized that someone needed to help more,” says Ethel. “Language is the number one barrier for integration and employment and so I started volunteering with new immigrants for ESL. I knew that with my skills and background knowledge, I could really help them.”

Through the Federal Retirees Ethel also helps with KCR Community Resources’ Sponsor a Family program. “It’s fun to go shopping for families, then wrap presents,” laughs Ethel.

Always active with her church, St. Charles Garnier, Ethel helped with their Inn from the Cold program when it was launched and was a key volunteer with the sponsoring of families from Syria, Croatia and other countries through the refugee resettlement programs.

“I remember the family from Croatia especially,” reminisces Ethel. “The mother was employable and spoke English. She had actually been an interpreter to help our soldiers and the RCMP in Croatia, and so she was in danger. It shows the importance of how important it is to bring them Canada.”

Nothing can stop Ethel from volunteering, not even COVID. “There’s always something to do and I guess I can’t say no!” quipped Ethel.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at dorothee@kcr.ca.

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