For 35 years, Joan Halvorsen has always been there when the community needed her most. Last week, the volunteers she guides and the community they serve honoured her for her work as executive director of Oak Bay Volunteer Services.
“Since December 1979 she has displayed great compassion for the various needs of clients of all ages and has had the necessary skills and knowledge to plan and manage the variety of help that could be offered to them by the many volunteers,” said longtime volunteer Bob Carter, who presented her with the award at the volunteers appreciation luncheon in the Oak Bay municipal hall.
The executive director was presented with an award that held a shepherd’s crook and read Joan Halvorsen: Shepherdess of the Oak Bay Volunteers since December 1979.
“It’s a wonderful honour to receive a beautiful award like this. It’s really a beautiful piece of art in itself,” said Halvorsen.
She gives credit to the volunteers she works with, about 200 at any given moment, and says she is often asked why she has stayed with the job for so long.
“Generally I say, ‘Well, I do have south facing windows.’ While there is truth in that, of course, it’s also the many wonderful people I’ve been able to work with through the years. And also the help we’ve been able to give to people,” said Halvorsen, who has no intention of stepping away from the job she loves.
“I’m just getting started.”
Over the years countless people have been helped by Halvorsen and her crew of tireless volunteers.
“Each and every one of them means so much to our community,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “They’re the connectivity to a lot of people who either can’t get out of the house or don’t have anyone to turn to in certain situations.”
Jensen said he cannot express the amount of appreciation the community and council have for the work done by the volunteers.
“There are so many people who depend on the volunteers and depend what Joan has done as executive director.”
Halvorsen said it’s the challenges of the job that keep her wanting to come back and the biggest reward comes from those she is able to help.
“I suppose it’s when the clients are able to really express the appreciation for the help that you give them. And also the families, it’s not only the individuals we help but their families benefit from the support also.”
She said she can see the relief on the faces when she tells someone that they’re not alone in looking after an elderly parent.
“You realize you’re not only helping the individual but providing something important to the family as well.”