Oak Bay beach eatery looks to reward more volunteers

Oak Bay beach eatery looks to reward more volunteers

The Kiwanis Tea Room at Willows Beach opens April 28

People and community pull longtime Oak Bay volunteer Jenni Hopkyns to the beach each spring.

For the last four years she’s worked at the eatery at Willows without pay, but with plenty of reward.

The Oak Bay Kiwanis Tea Room officially opens its doors on April 28, shifting from breakfast only on Sundays to daily through September making both food and money for the community.

Hopkyns was retired for 11 years and looking for other opportunities after the Victoria Hospice thrift store closed when she decided to give time to her favourite stop on her Willows walks.

While not a Kiwanian, “I like what the Kiwanis do,” she says simply. Chief among the myriad opportunities the local service club offers, is the mandate to give students employment and leadership opportunities.

“What I like about working here is they hire students,” said the former his school principal. “It’s good and they’re so fun … They’re just embarking on their lives it’s good for them the learn to work with old people like us.”

She also enjoys her volunteers, but loves the regulars, like the four walking ladies who squabble a bit about who will have what. They’re a part of something larger that happens in the small tea room. People meet people, and sometimes new friends.

“So often people are isolated… here you can sit on your own in a corner but you’re not alone,” Hopkyns said.

“How many other beaches have a place to eat?” Hopkyns says, crediting the council of the day that allowed for building of the tea room in 1949.

Plus it’s top notch food.

“They have amazing onion rings,” Hopkyns says.

A fan of Crumsby’s muffins? They plan to have those this year too, despite the storefront closing in Estevan village. “We use Eileen’s in Athlone Court to make sandwiches and they go every day,” Hopkyns says. “We highlight those businesses. I like that community aspect of it.”

“It’s a community place for people to come. There’s no kids here on their laptops. People come in and they actually chat.

Money from the proceeds of the tea room fund community programs and initiatives ranging from Red Cross Extreme Weather Protocol and Jaws of Life for the Oak Bay Fire Department to bike racks at Willows school.

The Kiwanis Tea Room seeks more volunteers as the season hits starting opening day April 28. Volunteers work three-hour shifts with flexible commitment as “most of us are active seniors,” Hopkyns said.

The work is simple enough, making coffee and tea ensuring the soup is hot, running dishes through the industrial washer. To learn more about volunteering, email janiburns@shaw.ca.

Did you know?

During the winter, Sunday breakfasts at the tea room support Kiwanis Pavilion – a 122-bed care facility for people living with frailty and dementia. They’ve served 1,411 breakfast to date with a record high 136 one morning this winter.

April 28 through September the tea room is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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Oak Bay beach eatery looks to reward more volunteers