April 16 to April 22 is National Volunteer Week in Canada and this year’s focus is “Volunteering Weaves Us Together”. At Dan’s Legacy, we can’t think of a more appropriate theme that truly reflects how we feel about our volunteers as well as defines the impact they have on our cause. The COVID-19 pandemic separated us from family and friends and took a significant toll on everyone’s mental health; referrals to our counselling and wrap-around support programs increased by 50%. We quickly adapted to meet the demand by increasing our counselling and outreach team staff, as well as revised how we provided our Sunday Haven meal program. Volunteers helped us distribute grocery hampers and serve up hot dinners in to-go containers for the youth who dropped by each Sunday.
Ensuring the youth have a secure supply of nutritious food is one of the ways we help them to stabilize physically, which typically results in greater success with mental health counselling. And Sunday Haven was one of our most successful outreach programs to date. While Sunday Haven is on temporary hold undergoing a redesign to better meet the needs of our youth clients, we want to take this opportunity to thank two of our most dedicated volunteers who helped make it such a success.
Salvatore Fancello, retired owner of Salvatores’ La Spaghetteria in New Westminster, and Lorrie Williams, former New Westminster City Councillor, took over the cooking and cleanup at Sunday Haven practically every weekend for the past 8 years. The sight of Salvatore wielding his whisk and Lorrie brandishing her scrub brushes (NO ONE was allowed to do the dishes except for her!) meant that everything was running smoothly.
Salvatore says that volunteering as a chef at Sunday Haven kept him busy in the kitchen, something he missed after more than 40 years in the business. And Lorrie’s history as a volunteer in the community is legendary: from supporting local organizations such as the Symphony Orchestra, Humane Society, the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary, Lookout Society, Rotary and more, to founding the Canadian Harambee Education Society which raises funds to provide girls in Kenya and Tanzania the opportunity to receive a secondary school education.
Lorrie was also recognized by the City of New Westminster in 2019 with its Citizen of the Year award. And while the many hours spent in the kitchen cooking and cleaning were a key component of the success of Sunday Haven, the most important thing that Lorrie and Salvatore gave to the youth was the chance for them to come together to connect with the community. Most of our youth clients have grown up in foster care and don’t have families, so being able to meet with other youth, discover Dan’s Legacy’s and our community partners’ support services, and build their own community connections was transformational.
This truly reflects the heart of volunteering, which is to share one’s time and talent and create more resilient communities.
We thank Lorrie and Salvatore for their many years of support and look forward to building upon what they helped to create in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on the future of Sunday Haven – in the meantime, registered youth with Dan’s Legacy are still provided with weekly grocery hampers. For more information on how to register, contact Dan’s Legacy’s Outreach Supervisor Khalid Soufan.