“Picture yourself here, a volunteer,” reads the Thrift Cellar sign, a direct appeal from the Afternoon Auxiliary to Royal Inland Hospital. “Fun, satisfying, rewarding, even angelic,” the sign beckons from beneath a mirror in the shop window on Victoria Street.
Angels among them, they get points for trying to draw others.
This sometimes desperate plea is an old refrain from volunteer-driven organizations, one often heard as the pace of activities picks up late in the year. For some reason that I haven’t quite figured out, the one I recently joined doesn’t seem to have this issue.
I showed up Sunday at a gift and craft sale to volunteer — selling fundraising tickets and memberships — at the Westsyde Community Development Society table only to learn that someone else had stepped up already, thankfully. Feeling not the least bit disappointed, I jumped at the opportunity to go skiing instead.
On the other side of the city, Juniper Ridge Community Association has gone all but dormant for lack of volunteers in recent years. Two years ago, they let their society status lapse after there were too few regulars to form a quorum at meetings. That may be about to change in 2016, though.
“The problem we had —I think a lot of volunteer organizations have the same problem — they can’t get volunteers,” said Gillian Stephenson, one of the longtime volunteers. “We feel, unless there’s something very major going on, people are very ambivalent. The only time they show up is when something’s going on. You’re kind of hitting a brick wall.”
The JRCA has not folded, it’s merely entered into state of suspension, preserved in minimal form to be pressed into service when more people step forward.
Ten years ago, they had enough interest to designate block representatives for are part of Juniper Ridge. Now, a handful meet only a couple of times a year and focus on just three neighbourhood initiatives: ice rink, fireworks and neighbourhood garage sale.
The JRCA has a saying: “If your driveway needs shovelling, the rink needs shovelling.”
As outdoor skating season begins in the valley, some residents would do well to remember that.
The skating is maintained by one volunteer who goes out at 10 p.m. to flood the rink so that ice can set up overnight. The association tries to let residents know that it’s volunteers from the neighbourhood, not City employees, who do the work, but then point is often lost. The annual fireworks show is another example.
“Every year, the fireworks display gets more and more difficult to organize,” Stephenson said.
What’s surprising about this turn of affairs is that Juniper continues to grow, westward toward Rose Hill (as a Rose Hill resident recently pointed out, raising concerns about the eventual meeting of the two neighbourhoods). There are plenty of young families, people putting down roots and interested in seeing the neighbourhood thrive. The association seems to have been forgotten in the shuffle of life, but that should change with a galvanizing concern coming up the hill, so to speak.
Stephenson is well aware of the City’s plans to establish a resource recovery centre now that it’s purchased the private landfill on Owl Road.
For the uninitiated, “resource recovery centre” is a new handle for recycling centre. The idea is to receive and sort materials so that they can be diverted from the Mission Flats landfill. This is not only better for the environment, it has the potential to extend the life of the landfill and thereby save City taxpayers a ton of money in the long haul.
City staff prepared what they felt was a watertight business plan for the operation, but it has sprung a leak, so to speak, over Owl Road. Valleyview have made it abundantly clear they don’t want to see increased heavy-truck traffic attempting to turn onto busy Valleyview Drive. They hope to see a new access road to the former landfill site off Highland Road, which was upgraded only last year.
When the matter made its way to City Hall this fall, councillors voiced concerns about pitting one neighbourhood against another. In fact, there is no easy remedy now that the City owns the former landfill. The cost of punching through a new access road to Highland Road would add as much as $1 million to the cost of developing the resource recovery centre and utility yard.
And, as noted, Juniper continues to grow, compounding the traffic issue.
“If any vehicle came up from the site, they would have to go uphill, around the traffic circle, then back down,” Stephenson said. “There’s no way they can safely make a lefthand turn off Highland Road without a heck of a lot of problems.”
The landfill has been a thorn in their side for years, so both Juniper and Valleyview residents alike are glad to see it close.
“Way back when, we were told it would no longer be a dump site. I think it’s going to make things worse instead of better. How are they going to have more activity without creating a heck of a lot of problems?”