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Good Neighbours: Volunteer gardeners make a difference

The Cultivating Local Yokels Society believes tending gardens can be a growth experience for people. “We use gardening as therapy,” said Richard Gauthier, executive director of the Local Yokels, a Victoria group formed by people with disabilities.
Bobby Wolf, a member of the Cultivating Local Yokels, removes invasive English ivy at a small orchard.

The Cultivating Local Yokels Society believes tending gardens can be a growth experience for people.

“We use gardening as therapy,” said Richard Gauthier, executive director of the Local Yokels, a Victoria group formed by people with disabilities.

“It gets us out and it helps with rehabilitation, and it gives a feeling of usefulness and a mission,” said the 64-year-old Gauthier, who is dealing with a brain injury.

The group’s most recent project involves removing invasive ivy in the area of a small Esquimalt cherry orchard. It’s next to Fleming Street, adjacent to a baseball field.

Gauthier said removing the invasive species will take time, but he said it’s entirely possible for the 60 or so active Local Yokels.

“This project is something a person with a disability might be capable of doing, participating and making a difference.”

He said the orchard is home to about 35 trees.

“They produce quite a few cherries so it’s a good food source.”

The Local Yokels have been around since 2004, Gauthier said, and have completed a number of projects. One project had members creating a garden for use by Boys & Girls Club Services of Greater Victoria.

“We’re involved in a lot of programs such as that,” he said.

Group members have grown their share of produce, and even had a stand set up at Cannor Nursery.

He said the non-profit society gratefully accepts donations and has had generous support from sponsors.

“Mostly, we’re funded by ourselves.”

Contact the Cultivating Local Yokels Society at 250-414-8470.


Awards to salute seniors’ service

Victoria Home Instead Senior Care is part of a national program to seek out outstanding volunteers aged 65 and over.

The Salute to Senior Service awards are being supported by Home Instead Senior Care offices across the country, with a nod to the 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participation. It found that seniors were the most likely group to be among the country’s “top” volunteers — those who volunteer 171 hours or more each year.

Alistair Hicks, owner of Victoria Home Instead Senior Care, said many seniors are “silent heroes” who quietly give their time to volunteering and make a difference to a variety of organizations.

Awards will be given out at the provincial level, and one national winner will be chosen.

Provincial winners will win a $500 donation to their chosen cause, while the national winner wins a $5,000 donation.

Nominees must be at least 65 and volunteer 15 or more hours per month.

Self-nominations are permitted. Nominations will be accepted until March 31, with online voting running from April 15-30. Winners will be announced in May.

For nomination details, go to


Blood donor, 17, follows dad’s steps

Claremont Secondary School student Marc Charlebois, 17, showed his heart was in the right place on Valentine’s Day when he donated blood for the first time.

Seventeen is the minimum age for giving blood.

Marc was taking part in a mobile blood clinic at his school, and following in a family tradition established by his father, Dave.

Dave has given blood 140 times, after getting his start as a high-school student himself. He has also donated bone marrow through Canadian Blood Services' OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, a contribution that turned out to be vital in the treatment of an Ontario child with a rare medical condition.

Claremont teacher Jim Spoor is a dedicated donor, as well, and has led donation efforts at the school for years.

For more on donating blood and marrow, go to


Dragon-boat team to hold auction

The Island Breaststrokers dragon-boat team is bringing its message of awareness and empowerment to the Power of Dragons dinner/auction at Don Mee’s restaurant March 9.

The team, created in 1996, aims to bring breast-cancer survivors together to enjoy the benefits of exercise. The upcoming event is raising funds for the team’s efforts.

Tickets are $75, or $700 for a table of 10. Go to for more information.


Music students in benefit concert

Eight music students from the University of Victoria and the Victoria Conservatory of Music join together next weekend to present a benefit concert called Music for Africa.

Proceeds will go to African AIDS Angels, a local charity that has contributed almost $500,000 to its projects in Africa since being formed in 2000. The group’s initiatives have helped people in a variety of ways in Malawi, Zambia and South Africa.

Organization of the Feb. 24 concert at UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall has been lead by Laura How, a 21-year-old working on a music degree at UVic. How has been on the board of directors of African AIDS Angels for two years, and was inspired to get involved after volunteering at a Zambian orphanage and school in 2010.

Supporters of African AIDS Angels make decorative angels to raise money for their overseas efforts, and will be selling them at the concert. A silent auction will also be held.

Concert tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

They are available at Ivy’s Bookshop, Long & McQuade or at the door.


Paper shredders give for a cause

Support The Lodge at Broadmead, the Veterans Health Centre and the Nigel Program for Adults with Disabilities next weekend at the Big Shred.

Island Document Storage and Shredding will be at the residential-care facility (4579 Chatterton Way) from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Feb. 23 to provide shredding services, by donation. The suggested donation is $8 per box.

The shredding event, organized by Broadmead Care, gives the public a chance to safely dispose of paper documents while also contributing to an important cause.


Hospital invites you to film presentation

The Mount St. Mary Foundation will show the highly praised movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen on Wednesday to raise funds for programs and equipment at Mount St. Mary Hospital.

The hospital is home to 200 residents aged 39 to 107.

Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. movie showing is at the University of Victoria’s Cinecenta, in the Student Union Building. Admission is $20.

For tickets, call 250-480-3140 or email [email protected].