Penticton Western News publisher Shannon Simpson (left) handed out the Community Group award winner to the Hospice Society represented by board member Patti Skinner (right) at the South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre Pillar Awards on Saturday. Emanuel Sequeira/Western News

Volunteers recognized at Pillar Awards

Volunteers were recognized at the South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre Pillar Awards

Volunteers were recognized at the South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre Pillar Awards on Saturday.

The event kicks off National Volunteer Week (April 23 to 29). There was 52 nominations in seven award categories.

Victoria Ritchie, a Grade 12 student at Penticton Secondary School won the Youth Award for her work in the community.

“I enjoy volunteering because it is much more than getting an award, its much more than just being there and saying you are a volunteer. I think I have connected with so many people of all generations and that has been something that has been super impactful,” said Ritchie. “When you are in a school setting all you hang out with people your own age, but being able to volunteer with different organizations like PDCRS, the South Okanagan special needs swimming team — all those different areas you meet people with different adversities you meet people from different backgrounds and it helps you become a more understanding and caring person I think.”

Ritchie, was chosen as the Rotary Club of Penticton-Okanagan student of the month in November and volunteers with many organizations in the community including at the hospital. She has also participated in numerous speaking competitions, including the United National international competition in New York. Out of 120 young people from around the world she was one of six qualifying for the final eventually winning first prize.

Related: Ritchie is giving youth a voice in Penticton

“As a young person we face a lot of negativity when it comes to things like climate change, when it comes to issues like suicide, depression and mental health. When you are stuck in a society with negativity like that and you scroll through your Facebook feed and all you see is different issues happening in the world, you are looking for an outlet, you are looking for a way you can make a different so you can feel hopeful for your future,” she said.

It is why she joined the steering committee for the YES Project, which is an organization dedicated to make resources available to young people and is working to build a youth centre in Penticton. She saw the YES Project as a way for young people to advocate for resources, help their peers and give others a voice to talk about their issues. Ritchie also is a director on the First Things First board to advocate for the environment.

“I think that is why volunteering is important to me because it gives me an outlet of hope. It gives me a place to put my energy and time where I am not feeling negative and I’m feeling excited for the future,” said Ritchie.

May Simpson and Judy Jeffries shared the Volunteer Award.

The Pillar Award winners are:

Volunteer Award: May Simpson and Judy Jeffries

Volunteer Project-YES Project

Community Group: Penticton Hospice Volunteer Group

Youth Award- Victoria Richie

Newcomer Volunteer: Nita Khanal

Executive Director: Tanya Behardien

Business Gives Back: Valley First Credit Union

The South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre is a registered charity that provides educational supports and resources free to residents interested in volunteering. They said there are 30,000 residents who volunteer in the community.

To register as a volunteer in your community and find your volunteer opportunity go to and click on Browse Opportunities. Contact the Volunteer Centre by emailing or calling 1-888-576-5661.