Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week!
Volunteers are the root of our Avalon community and we are so grateful to every person who gives their time to support women in recovery. The theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week is “The Value of One, The Power of Many”. We see this exemplified with the Women of Avalon on a daily basis as one woman has the power to inspire, encourage and support many women and together, they are even stronger and united as a community. Every day, women step up to host meetings, provide peer support, run errands, assist with administrative tasks, help with events, support outreach and give their time in many other ways to support Avalon’s mission.
To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we will be featuring some of our wonderful volunteers throughout the week. Up first is Carolyn!
Carolyn is a 55-year-old woman with 2 daughters and loves working in Art Therapy! Carolyn is a Woman of Avalon and a gracious volunteer. As of February 26th, she has been in the program for two years. Her first day was at the Avalon Women’s Centre in White Rock and that remains her “home base”.
Carolyn has a long history with volunteerism dating back to 1977 when, at the young age of 11, she started volunteering with the Red Cross. From there, her passion grew and Carolyn has been doing some kind of volunteer work ever since, from feeding the homeless to chairing the board of her daughters’ gymnastics club.
When asked what she likes best about volunteering with Avalon, this is what Carolyn wrote:
“Avalon allows me to give back to a place where women who volunteer changed my life. Up until Avalon, I had never understood how truly humbling and amazing it is to be helped by others who are doing [it] out of love and selflessness. I had been raised to do volunteer work because it was what my family did, but now I understood the impact.”
With the pandemic, volunteering became challenging in new ways, but also provided new opportunities. Carolyn chaired Zoom meetings for the first time, but sadly, her hopes to complete an art mural in the child-minding room before COVID had to be postponed.
Art and volunteerism
Being passionate about art and helping others has led Carolyn to working on completing her Masters in Art Therapy – while working as an Educational Assistant for the Surrey School Board. Carolyn says she started volunteering at Avalon “pretty much from [her] first day in the program”. What started out as washing coffee cups after meetings turned into chairing Zoom meetings when Avalon’s programming moved online.
Carolyn has been a source of great inspiration and artistic passion for Avalon, particularly working with Avalon Women’s Centre White Rock. She completed many of her Art Therapy practicum hours at this location. Once restrictions lift for in-person, she hopes to host a free drop-in Art Therapy group for women at the Centre.
In the meantime, we are so excited that Carolyn was able to complete a wonderful feat for White Rock – painting a new tree on a wall of the White Rock Centre! She volunteered 9 hours of her time to paint this new, beautiful, and symbolic piece of art, saying she “painted each stroke individually as [she] wanted the tree trunk to be rich and full of texture.”
For some context as to the meaning behind the tree, the history of “the tree” with Avalon starts with the birch tree. Inspired by Celtic mythology, the birch tree symbolizes renewal and rebirth. Avalon uses the tree to symbolize how our Centres are places where women can find new beginnings and a life free from addiction. Because the birch tree symbol is so integral to our organization, it is used in our logo and spread across the walls of each of our Centres. When the White Rock Centre needed a new tree painted on their walls, Carolyn, the gifted artist who sees the world through a lens that views beauty in all that surrounds her, stepped up to complete a stunning and inspiring piece of art.
We asked Carolyn what inspired the design she chose for the tree painting, and this was her answer:
“I was asked to create a feminine tree. That was my only mandate. I sketched and pondered. I knew the purpose was to put the names of all the women who belonged to the Centre. I look at “her” and I see strength and wisdom. I added the bird house with the robin because Avalon is our shelter, and a robin is a regular basic bird. Nothing fancy or exotic. Just a normal beautiful bird. A mama robin represents all of us women. We do what we can do to be the best we can with the help of our higher power.”
White Rock Centre Manager Leanne Utendale says, “We’re so blessed to have Carolyn share her talent with us. She has gone above and beyond in her role as a volunteer, and we are so honoured and thankful for her dedication and passion for Avalon. It’s volunteers like Carolyn that allow our Centres to thrive and keep growing. Thank you for everything you’ve done Carolyn! We’re looking forward to seeing you again, hopefully someday soon.”
Join us at Avalon where we lift each other as we climb. As a volunteer with us, you not only share your skills with the women we help, you find connections for yourself too – just as Carolyn has. And you too will experience “The Value of One – The Power of Many”.
We have opportunities in-person at our Centres as well as virtually with AvalOnline. Right now, we have an immediate and urgent need for women to host Zoom meetings. The qualifications for this position are as follows: you must be a member of the 12-step program that you would lead, you must be comfortable with Zoom technology (or willing and able to learn), and you must have technology available to support Zoom operations. Volunteers more broadly must identify and live full-time as a woman, trans-inclusive.
For more information, please feel free to check out the Volunteer page on our website. If you’re looking for Centre-specific information and volunteer or hosting workshop opportunities, please contact the appropriate Centre Manager – emails are listed here on our website. You can also directly contact Pam, our Funding and Communications Manager, by clicking here to learn what other volunteer positions we have in areas such as outreach and fundraising. We would be happy to have you join the team! Thank you for reading this blog, for your interest in Avalon and volunteerism, and for being exactly who you are 😇