Volunteer named Kiwanian of the Year

From hot dog sales to event planning, Janet Morningstar lends her time and talents to the community

Tireless volunteer Janet Morningstar is the 2015-16 Kiwanian of the Year for the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay.

If there’s a Kiwanis activity happening in Oak Bay, chances are Janet Morningstar will be somewhere nearby. Sometimes she’s front and centre, serving hot dogs at the summer street market or breakfast at the Willows Tea House, but other times she’s busy behind the scenes, getting word out about the club’s activities or organizing fundraisers.

For these efforts and more, Morningstar was named the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay’s 2015-2016 Kiwanian of the Year.

“This Kiwanian has been working very hard this year to get the club name and what and who we represent out there,” club president Leslie Johnson said in announcing the award.

“She took on almost single-handedly the undaunted task of putting our name out to the public in the form of our new retractable signage,” Johnson noted. “She is on the board of directors for the Pavilion Foundation, chair of the market committee, has worked in the Tea Room and volunteers her time freely for the club.”

The award was completely unexpected. “It was a big surprise, it really was,” Morningstar says. “I’m really honoured that my role was recognized and that I’m making a difference.”

A longtime volunteer in her previous home of North Vancouver, the retired teacher and counsellor came across the Kiwanis Club by happenstance while visiting the Tea Room at Willows Park shortly after moving to Oak Bay.

It was January and volunteers were serving the winter Sunday breakfasts in support of Kiwanis Pavilion, a complex care facility specializing in care for people with dementia.

Reading the signage, “I said, ‘Do I have to be a member of Kiwanis to volunteer here?’” she recalls. “I’ve probably done every Sunday since for four or five years.

“It’s fun working in the tea room and the breakfasts are fabulous. I don’t want to miss a week.”

Volunteering is a life-long passion that just comes naturally to Morningstar.

“It’s just serving people, talking to people and being part of the community,” she reflects.

After volunteering for several years, Morningstar officially joined Oak Bay Kiwanis in 2014. Other interests include a variety of arts organizations, including the Belfry, Pacific Opera Victoria, Ballet Victoria and Langham Court Theatre, and Oak Bay Heritage.

Today, in addition to her role as a director and Oak Bay Kiwanis media chair, Morningstar is also vice-president of the Oak Bay Pavilion Society, for which she recently co-ordinated the Neil Diamond tribute fundraising concert at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre. The event raised about $6,000 for the Kiwanis Pavilion.

The winter breakfasts, slated to start Jan. 8 this winter, raise significant funds for the pavilion.

“That’s the major fundraiser and it’s a great place to volunteer, and where we need volunteers.”

Additionally, Oak Bay Kiwanis also operates Milton Manor in Oak Bay, geared toward seniors living on a fixed income, and Rose Manor, an independent living residence in Fairfield.

Among the highlights of the last year was a brand new banner that accompanies members to various events, showcasing the myriad initiatives Oak Bay Kiwanis undertakes in the community, from those residences to the YES Awards, park playgrounds to local sports.

“It’s really important to me that Kiwanis gets its name out there,” she says.

A metal version of the banner has since been created and is mounted during better weather at the Willows tea house.

Not one to rest on successes past, however, Morningstar has a vision for the year ahead.

“My goal this year, and it’s a personal goal, is in some way to involve more volunteers,” Morningstar says.

While you don’t have to join Kiwanis to volunteer for their initiatives, “it’s social and it’s a service club. You meet nice people and you get to serve the community.”

Learn more about Oak Bay Kiwanis at www.kiwanisclubofoakbay.com. For information about volunteering, email Janet Morningstar at morningstar123@gmail.com.