Volunteering offers a chance to make a real difference

Volunteering offers a chance to make a real difference

For Maria Macdonnell, volunteering offers a chance to make a real difference and has been an important part of her identity. She started at age 14 as a candy-striper at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and volunteered while attending high school. After marrying her high school sweetheart, Maria was always active in their four boys’ schools and PAC. When the boys were in high school, she became the “team mom” travelling with the soccer and basketball teams, prepping all their meals and snacks.

“After our youngest son graduated from high school, there was a real sense of loss in that may volunteer days were behind me, so to speak,” reminisces Maria. “It wasn’t until we attended a beautiful gala for JoeAnna’s House and heard all the guest speakers talking about what JoeAnna’s House was about, that I knew I needed to inquire about volunteering there. I started in 2019 and it is truly the highlight of my week each Wednesday to go in for my shift.”

Opened in 2019 and steps away from Kelowna General Hospital, JoeAnna’s House provides accommodations for out-of-town families with loved ones receiving care at KGH. Maria’s volunteer duties include daily household tasks, visiting with guest, setting up the share meal program and orientating new guests when they arrive.

“I am loving my current volunteer role and all the duties that come along with it,” says Maria enthusiastically. “I get to help people feel comfortable and give them someone to talk to, to help ease what they are going through in their personal lives. I help to make them feel welcome and at home as guests at JoeAnna’s House.”

“I honestly look forward to it every week and seeing familiar faces. I’m just so happy to be part of this organization of caring and generous individuals.”

In the future Maria hopes to add a day of volunteering at KGH in the cuddle baby program but currently she and her husband also like to travel and she loves hiking and walking with their dog, visiting friends and family and enjoying Okanagan Lake. She loves to volunteer as it allows her to give back to her community in a meaningful way and it fulfills her. She and her husband have also sponsored and volunteered for the Salvation Army Fill the Van program for 27 years.

“Participating in the “Fill the Van for Sally Ann Food Drive” left me feeling grateful, humbled, and inspired by the community’s generosity,” explains Maria. “Seeing the bins filling up with donations from our generous community brought a profound sense of fulfillment knowing we were making a difference in the lives of those in need.”

“Through volunteering I have learned a lot about myself and gained valuable insights into the lives of those around me,” shares Maria. “I’ve discovered my capacity for empathy and compassion, as well as my ability to adapt and problem-solve. Additionally, volunteering has provided me with a deeper understanding of the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the people I have had the privilege to work alongside, fostering a greater sense of empathy and connection.”

If you are looking for a volunteer role that can be as fulfilling as Maria’s at JoeAnna’s House, check out the VolunteerConnector at www.volunteerconnector.org. There are currently a wide array of positions including Environmental Stewards with the Regional District Parks Services, Boutique Merchandiser with Dress for Success and Social Media Volunteer with Pathways Abilities Society. There are so many ways to make an impact and a real difference. If you aren’t sure about where you want to give back, connect with Wendy Williams for the Volunteers4All program and she can match your interest and passion with great opportunities. Contact Wendy at wendyw@kcr.ca

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