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Volunteer Week in The East Village: Meet Jim and Maria

Walking through the doors of Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, you are immediately thrown into the hustle and bustle of busy bodies and smiling faces. Greeted by Mark Gifford, the Executive Director, he told us, “you’ve got to talk to Jim, he always has something to say.” Jim is quite the character – to say that he is animated is quite the understatement.

Jim has been a volunteer at Kiwassa for five years and dedicating three days a week helping run the entire senior’s program and loves every minute of it. In the mornings, Jim also supports the preparation of the senior ESL classes, stays for the daily Mah-jong tournament and helps with seniors lunches. –  What doesn’t he help with?!

Mark and coordinator, Gloria, both tell us, “If Jim sees anybody working too hard, he likes to take the task on himself.” Jim works hard at Kiwassa because he feels the need to give back to an organization that has personally done so much for him. Volunteering at Kiwassa has given Jim many friendships and has become a hobby that he is very passionate about. We asked Jim what his favourite part about volunteering is, “lunch!” He laughs, and then tells us, “I like to volunteer because it keeps me young and happy. Happiness is my first priority.”

“If the people here are happy, then I am happy.”

Jim introduces us to his friend, Maria, who is also a volunteer here. The pair met at Kiwassa and have been inseparable ever since. Jim claims that Maria is the ‘crafting expert,’ but she quickly scoffs at his comment. The ESL room at Kiwassa is filled with all of Maria’s beautiful creations; crochet flowers, knit hats, and paper crafts hang from the walls. “I’m so lucky to have her,” Jim tells us and pats Maria’s shoulder.

We tried to thank Jim and Maria for their time with us, but Jim was very persistent and selfless, “don’t thank me, thank Kiwassa for all they do!” Gems like Jim and Maria are quite the rarity; and it is loving and devoted volunteers like them that make Kiwassa as successful and lively as it is today.

Maria(Left), Sherry: Translator (middle) & Jim (Right)

Interested in volunteering with Kiwassa Neighbourhood House?

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Kiwassa Neighbourhood House is a grassroots, multi-service community agency that has been providing a broad range of free or low cost social services and programs to children, youth, adults, seniors and families in East Vancouver for 60 years. Kiwassa Neighborhood House has a team of staff and volunteers that reflect the broad diversity within our neighbourhood. The staff bring an eclectic range of education, professional training and experience to the work of Kiwassa, as well as passion, ideas and energy.

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