As a young, shy red-head with ringlets growing up in Ontario, Ruth Mellor may not have not have looked like the community champion she is today, but this volunteering tour de force has been a passionate advocate for a variety of causes since moving to Kelowna in 1972. She is currently on the Board of Kelowna Film Society, Kelowna Pro-Choice and Central Okanagan Community Gardens and has also been involved with CFUW (Canadian Federation of University Women) and served on the Board, provincial Board, and National Board. In 2019 she was honored for her community commitments with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from Gov.-Gen Julie Payette and Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin.
“Volunteering makes me feel useful and has led to many friendships,” says Ruth. “I like the interaction and the feeling of being useful. Nothing is more rewarding than telling potential gardeners that I have a plot for them and before COVID people really enjoyed the social interaction involved in gathering to see good films and they always expressed their appreciation.”
“So I guess it contributes to my ego and self esteem to be appreciated,” she laughingly continues, explaining what volunteering has taught her about herself. “I choose organizations which are useful, but also where people get along and enjoy being involved in the volunteer experience. I have learned not to stay if I am not enjoying myself, at least most of the time. I worked as a Supervisor in Nutrition services for 18 years and learned how to deal with people, which is useful in coordinating a community garden which is like being mayor of a small town.”
In addition to her work as a Board Director, Ruth also worked as a volunteer Coordinator at the Barlee Community Gardens and enjoys the interaction with individual gardeners, although they have not been able to hold their group clean-ups and activities. One of her favourite memories of volunteering is the social connection that the Community Gardens provides.
“When I was coordinator at the Hartman Community garden one of the gardeners told me she lived in an apartment close by and she was new to the community,” Ruth explains. “She had no friends or relatives in Kelowna, and having a garden plot where she interacted with people had changed her life completely.”
If you are interested in being a part of changing someone’s life completely, sign up to be a volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about. As Ruth told us “Volunteering is very rewarding – pick an activity that suits your interests.”
Contact KCR Community Resources, the home of the Volunteer Centre of the Central Okanagan, to be matched to an organization that needs your help. Call Emily at 250-763-8008 x141 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources, a multi-service agency offering programs and services to meet community, family and individual needs.