No age barrier to giving

Oak Bay Rotary draws volunteers of all generations

Mary Canty

Mary Canty

One Oak Bay service club proves that philanthropy is a cross-generational trait. Rotary Club of Oak Bay’s youngest member Claire Helm is 62 years junior to member Mary Canty who turns 90 in October.

Canty waited decades to become a full member in 2001 after women were allowed. She’s been involved 50 years; first in Fort St. John alongside her late husband who was a charter member.

“We both liked the combination of community and international components of Rotary,” Canty said. “We both liked the size of the Oak Bay club, having had so many small town experiences.”

Helm is a newly-minted member.

When she and her husband Jonathan Helm returned to her hometown of Victoria a couple of years ago, they found their generation lacking in key volunteer groups.

“We noticed that there were quite a few service clubs in the area that our demographic wasn’t represented at all,” Helm said. “For us as busy professionals, it’s a great way to get involved in and pick projects that are interesting to you without having to do it all yourself.”

Canty and Helm worked side-by-side selling hot dogs for rotary during the Bowker Creek Brush Up Aug. 12.

“Mary is amazing. She’s like our rotary living history book,” Helm said. “It’s really neat to be connected with that many different people, old and young and everything in between. It’s a lot of really great people with varied backgrounds. … They’re inspiring leaders in our community.”

A post-polio survivor and retired nurse, Canty still keeps busy as she plans her 90th birthday party.

“I still volunteer whenever I can,” she said. “I’m not as mobile, (but) I still give as much as I can.”

International family

Mary Canty plunged into Rotary’s Student Exchange Program after she and her husband came to Victoria in 1967.

“I am a surrogate mother to students from Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Australia and New Zealand. I am still in contact with some of them. Our own daughter went to Australia where she met her future husband, an exchange student from South Africa,” Canty said.