Ask Larry Merchison why he volunteers, and the answer is easy: to give back to the community.
“Being retired, it’s a good chance to give back to the community what they gave to us,” the 71-year-old said, sitting at a table with six other volunteers. “The community itself gives to us, so it’s our time to give back to the community and help out the people who need help.”
Merchison has been a volunteer with the Agassiz Harrison Community Services (AHCS) for the last three years, spending his time sorting through tools brought in to the thrift store. The other six volunteers at his table also volunteered at the thrift store, putting in their time to help others in the community.
“Many of us don’t have a lot of money, despite the fact there’s a lot of need in the community,” table-mate Dawn Arnold added. “So (volunteering) is our way of making things more equitable.”
On Tuesday, April 9, these volunteers and nearly 80 others were seated inside Harrison’s Memorial Hall for a celebration lunch in honour of their devotion to volunteerism. Community members gathered around tables, chatting with the friends they had made through their time with AHCS. At the side of the room, a community services staff member organized the certificates of appreciation that had been printed for each volunteer.
On average, AHCS has more than 100 volunteers, all doing different jobs for the service provider. Some, like Merchison and Arnold, volunteer with the thrift store, which helps raise funds for the organization. Others, like Corrie and Garrett Oosterom, volunteer at the food bank and during holiday food drives.
Although each person had noble reasons for giving their time to AHCS, there was a benefit for the volunteers as well.
“I moved here five years ago, and it was a good way to meet people,” Mary Murphy said. “In the thrift shop, a lot of people come through, and you get to know people.”
“It’s like Mary said, meeting people,” Robin McCullough added from the seat beside her. “Meeting people is really what we get out of it.”