When the Summerland chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society shut down earlier this month, it marked the end of a decades-old institution.
And while the last group of volunteers haven’t been with the organization quite that long — the Summerland chapter was started in the early years of the CCS, which is approaching its 75th anniversary — they do account for nearly a third of the time it has been in existence.
All together, the volunteer hours put in by May Lalonde, Lillian Thomson, Joan Lansdell, Ann Pomer, Roy Elander, Nellie Johansen and Shirley Troubridge total up to more than a century, with individual contributions ranging from 15 to more than 30 years. They were honoured this month in a presentation ceremony with Summerland Mayor Perrino, joined by Sally Ginter, regional director for the CCS and Shannon Jolley, team lead, annual giving.
“This is the end of an era. Summerland still continues to be an important stakeholder for the CCS. We look forward to new ways to engage the community,” said Ginter. “It is very important that all the hard work and awareness that you ladies have instilled in Summerland remains part of your legacy.”
These volunteers have helped to fight back against cancer through participating in numerous awareness and fundraising campaigns, by providing education, helping celebrate those lost to cancer, and by helping those in their cancer journeys find support along the way.
But like many other service groups, the Summerland CCS volunteers are aging.
“Sorry that we have to close down, but we can’t get any young ones to come in,” said Thomson, who began volunteering with the CCS in 1988.
Her colleague, Joan Lansdell, has only been at it for 15 years. She said it has been a wonderful opportunity to get out in the community and meet more people, but times are changing.
“All the different societies are getting old and people aren’t joining again,” said Lansdell. “But it is changing … people are doing things now to raise money individually. It’s a whole different aspect of fundraising. People are willing to give and they do it in different ways.”
Jolley said it is very difficult to replace people who have this degree of history and service, agreeing that the nature of volunteering has changed, with people becoming more oriented to campaigns, rather than joining one group for the long term. But the Summerland volunteers stand out, she said, for staying together for so long.
“Talk about spirit … this is amazing, it’s very unusual,” said Jolley. “What I find is there is a real difference in the generations. They (older volunteers) tend to be formal, they follow processes, they are very consistent and reliable. And we don’t see the same thing in a lot of the younger volunteers coming forward.”
The camaraderie, Lansdell said, was one of the things that kept them together, both in the local chapter and with the CCS volunteers.
“It was a wonderful group to get involved in,” she said. “It was something that you could see the results in the community, you could see it wasn’t something that was a one-time thing. And it is a larger community because you have everyone in the province doing the same thing.”
May Lalonde, the chapter president, had more than two decades of service.
“The co-operation from all of them and the help and the encouragement was nothing like anywhere. It takes all of us to make it go and make it a success,” she said. “I am sorry we had to quit doing this. It wasn’t all give, we all learned from it too.”
Jolley said the CCS will continue to be active in the Summerland community, and while they may not have an official office, they will still be recruiting volunteers and conducting campaigns. CCS chapters continue in Penticton and Kelowna.