Kelowna volunteer Laurel D'Andrea is joined by Elizabeth Specht (centre) and Anne-Marie Koeppen in receiving the Diamond Jubilee Medal for their work in the volunteer sector.

Tireless Kelowna volunteer gets nod from the Queen

Laurel D'Andrea lauded as a volunteer sector leader and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

  • Oct. 2, 2012 6:00 a.m.

It’s not often a patient propositions their surgeon—with money—while lying on the operating table, but when being helpful runs in your veins, these situations just crop up.

This is how Laurel D’Andrea describes how she came to assemble a team to raise $280,000 for Kelowna General Hospital, more than enough to ensure patients with gallbladder attacks can get their gallstones broken up with a laser, rather than enduring a multi-day hospital visit and operation.

“I don’t like being the leader all the time,” D’Andrea said in interview Monday afternoon. “When I volunteer for Emergency Social Services, I like being the person who sits in the chair and fills out the form.”

Nevertheless, with 30 years of doing everything from running the Big Brothers and Big Sisters board of directors in Nanaimo to cleaning out cages at the SPCA, D’Andrea is indeed a leader among volunteers.

Friday afternoon, it was announced that none other than the Queen of England herself thinks this deserves recognition.

Laurel D'AndreaD’Andrea has been named one of three volunteer sector leaders in this province and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her efforts.

Presented with the honour in Vancouver at Volunteer BC’s Volunteer Futures Conference, she was joined by Anne-Marie Koeppen, who works in volunteer management in the Cowichan Valley, and Elizabeth Specht, who currently runs Volunteer Richmond Information Services, in receiving the honour.

D’Andrea’s award is entirely for the unpaid labour she’s given over the years.

By day, she is the publisher of Beyond 50 Magazine and mother to two teenage boys, and by night she has volunteered for everything from Parent Advisory Council duties to bingo bashes in the years before gaming was professionalized.

An active member of the Kelowna Sunrise Rotary Club, she counts last year’s Boot, Scoot and Barn Dance among her more recent achievements. The event raised $35,000 and brought hundreds of participants out to the Rutland Centennial Hall, a portion of the money from the event went to hall improvements.

She has also volunteered to run hockey tournaments, sling beer at the Okanagan Sun games and even invented her own BC Tel fundraiser, which may just make a comeback.

The original concept was a call-a-thon during which BC Tel employees would get their friends and family to pledge money for the number of phone calls they were able to answer in an hour as both directory assistance and telephone operators. The first event raised over $10,000 for Variety—The Children’s Charity of BC. Now working with the Telus Ambassadors, she has suggested it might work well in the call centres out east.

“We got to go on TV (on the Variety Club Telethon) and present a cheque. It was great PR for BC Tel and it was fun,” she said.

D’Andrea was nominated for the Jubilee award by Kelowna Community Resources community services manager Dawn Wilkinson.

“I so admire Laurel’s energy and amazing ability to think outside the box that nominating her for this award was a pleasure,” said Wilkinson.

The medals were created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne and were given to 60,000 Canadians who showed extensive volunteerism and served their communities in exceptional ways.

“By awarding the Diamond Jubilee Medal to individuals like Laurel, we are demonstrating our deepest appreciation for their commitment and service to strengthening volunteerism in the province,” said Lawrie Portigal, president of Volunteer BC.

For her part, D’Andrea says volunteering is really about having fun. She loves the moment just before an event begins when she can stop, look around a room and realize that because of her efforts a good cause will receive money, people will be able to meet one another, have a great time and stay away from the television for an evening.

“I think my advice would be to do something you enjoy as a volunteer, but don’t do something you would do in your everyday job because you will burn out,” she said. “And when you do reach that point where you’re starting to run out of steam, move on to something new. It’s all about having fun.”

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