Good Neighbours: 20 busy years for Saanich volunteers

‘The little agency that could” has come a long way in 20 years. The Saanich Volunteer Services Society is  marking the milestone anniversary on Thursday with a garden party from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at McRae House.McRae House, the society’s headquarters, has a 1445 Ocean View Rd. address but is actually tucked behind the 18th tee box at Cedar Hill Golf Course, just off the popular chip trail. The structure is more than a century old and was home to the pioneering McRae family, who ran a farm that included what is now the golf course and its environs.As part of anniversary festivities, Saanich Volunteer Services is giving the municipality a new trailside “wayfinder” sign for the area, with maps on one side and a community bulletin board on the other.Municipal workers are doing the installation.Heather Fetherston, the group’s co-ordinator of volunteers, said the society was established in 1992 by Saanich council. It enjoyed a modest first year, with 15 volunteers and 33 clients — numbers that have since ballooned to 274 volunteers working with 1,074 clients.Volunteers help with a wide array of needs, Fetherston said.“We send people in to do what we call minor home repairs, fixing a leaky tap and so on. We take people shopping if they can’t manage in the store anymore. It’s anything to help people stay living independently in their own home as long as possible.”Most clients are seniors, but there are also younger people who receive help. There is a loyal corps of volunteers, but none more dedicated than Maxine Reed and Mary-Joan Sharkey. Both have been giving their time since the society first opened its doors.Reed said she has thoroughly enjoyed her 20 years of service.“I get the satisfaction of meeting and talking to the clients,” she said.Sharkey had praise for the office staff. “They’re great for the volunteers to work with.”Executive director Susan Zerb said the University of Victoria has been an excellent source of volunteers over the years, as students are often looking for ways to become part of the community. She said two UVic grads are currently working as “virtual” volunteers, helping produce programs, pamphlets and other items.Anyone wanting to attend Thursday’s party is asked to RSVP by contacting the Saanich Volunteer Services Society at 250-595-8008 or

Free blood tests let men watch health

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Men’s Health Day is back for an 11th year next weekend at Tillicum Centre, offering 14 health stations with blood-testing by Vancouver Island Health Authority lab technicians.Among the free blood assessments are tests for cholesterol and blood sugar/diabetes, as well as prostate-specific antigen or PSA. Last year, 546 men had blood tests, and event organizers are prepared for up to 600 this time around.Usually, PSA testing is free with a laboratory referral by a doctor, but otherwise costs $35. A high PSA score should be followed by a visit to a doctor.Volunteers from the Capital Region Prostate Centre are organizing Men’s Health Day, and Country Grocer is the main sponsor. Activities run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 22.

Family worker gets new office on wheels

The Cridge Centre for the Family is keeping pace with its clients thanks to the Harbourside Rotary Club of Victoria.An important aspect of the Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program is mobility, so the club has donated $10,000 for a used 2007 Chevrolet Uplander van to replace the aging minivan used by outreach worker Nicole Andrews. The minivan, which doubled as her office, was getting worn out after a 2011 schedule that saw her travel to over 100 home visits, more than 60 visits to food banks and over 230 coffee meetings with clients.Andrews said the new vehicle helps her keep her clients and their children better connected to the community and the various resources that they need. The capacity of the van — it fits up to seven passengers at once — also makes its possible to get more done on one trip.Alley Kat Signs donated the signs for the new vehicle.

Walk, casino night benefit Hannah Day

The community support for three-year-old Hannah Day, who has a rare form of cancer, has buoyed her family and provided a much-needed monetary boost. The family was still recovering from the loss if their home and welding business in a 2011 fire when Hannah was diagnosed last month. Since then, her parents have taken time off from their jobs and have been with her almost constantly at B.C. Children’s Hospital.By the end of August, close to $30,000 had been donated to help the family with its mounting financial issues. The public has continued to hold fundraising events since.Coming up Sept. 22 is the Angel Walk for Hannah, which starts at 11 a.m. at Clover Point and ends at the legislature. Donations will be collected, and a number of participants will have their heads shaved.That evening, CFB Esquimalt’s Pacific Fleet Club (1587 Lyall St.) will play host to An Evening of Angels, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The event is a Monte Carlo-style fundraiser complete with poker, blackjack and roulette, and featuring entertainment by Maureen Washington and the Cheesecake Burlesque Revue. Guests must be 19 or over. Tickets are available at the Fleet Club, and are $5 in advance or $10 at the door.Funds can also be donated through a Coast Capital Savings trust account set up in the Day family name. Hillside Centre recently made a $1,200 contribution to the account, and Hillside’s Michele Paget encourages other shopping centres to match or exceed that amount.For more information, go to

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