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Langley Township celebrates community volunteers

Annual appreciation dinner honoured youth and senior volunteers

The Township of Langley awarded nearly a dozen outstanding volunteers in the community at its annual appreciation dinner on Thursday, April 11.

One of those volunteers was Sharon Wood, a longtime volunteer with Langley Hospice Society, who received the Eric Flowerdew Volunteer Award for her work at hospice in the adult bereavement program.

Through this program, she helps facilitate the 10-week bereavement support group and weekly drop-in coffee sessions.

“I’m so honoured to [have been] nominated for this award… Naturally, I am human, and I also felt proud and happy to represent the society,” Wood told the Langley Advance Times.

Wood also encourages clients to engage in social and active programs at hospice, and through her volunteer work she quickly became an advocate for hospice and can be seen regularly assisting at events to promote its services.

“As a volunteer, you are not asked to join or be a part of a person’s grief journey. The role of the volunteer is to be a companion at the person’s side and support when asked. People seeking help are just seeking support for the journey they never chose, but now must walk,” Wood said.

Her own story of grief began on April 22, 2000, when her husband, Bill, suddenly fell and passed away in her arms when she caught him. Twelve years later, Wood lost her mother. Then in 2018, within a few months, Wood unexpectedly lost her sister, sister-in-law, and her second partner (of six years), Gerry.

“I was once again totally devastated, and my support systems were gone,” she said.

Through the adult bereavement program, Wood learned to process her grief with people who understood what she was experiencing.

“They didn’t try to fix anything in my life or tell me how to do this. They [only] provided a place where I felt supported and listened to, and [helped] me realize what I needed to do for me,” Wood shared

In the 10-week program, group members could be vulnerable with each other, Wood said. They shared memories, pictures, and many stories.

“Everybody’s grief is unique and that means everybody’s timeline is different. But it also means that if you provide a supportive place where you don’t feel you have all the answers, you can help people by listening and just being there for them,” Wood said. “That’s the secret of hospice.”

Wood, now 79 living in Murrayville, said volunteering with hospice is her way of giving back to the community that helped her – plus she’s passing on some of what she learned through her experience.

“I find it extremely rewarding. I like people and I enjoy working with people. Because of the philosophy of it, you don’t have to feel like you are an expert in it — I’m certainly not — but all I have to do is be there and listen,” she said.

“Sharon’s exceptional commitment extends not only to her clients at the Langley Hospice Society, but also to her fellow volunteers, who admire her for her wealth of knowledge, experience, and generous nature,” said Sue Westhaver, emcee of the event and former Flowerdew award recipient.

D.W. Poppy Grade 12 student Saje Keller was a nominee for the Pete Swensson Outstanding Youth Award, and was honoured to be among her peers.

“My favourite thing about volunteering is the connections I can make throughout Langley… being a part of the community has given me purpose and motivated me to continue serving others,” the Murrayville student said.

Keller has taken on multiple volunteer roles going back to 2019, some of which she continues today. She is involved in her school’s arts program, serves as her grad council president, is a coach for the Langley United Soccer Association, and is a peer mediator for the Langley school district, and many other positions.

After her graduation this year, Keller intends to pursue a Bachelor of Science at the University of the Fraser Valley and then transfer to Simon Fraser University for a major in behavioural neuroscience.

“This program marries two areas which I am eager to learn about – physiology and psychology – and will provide me with the skills I need to become a physiotherapist,” she said.

R.E. Mountain Secondary Grade 12 student Ranaiman Dhaliwal was awarded the Pete Swensson Outstanding Youth Award.

He is a member of the 94th BC Youth Parliament, volunteers at the West-End Coal Harbour Policing Centre, and is vice president on his school’s student council where he has organized cultural events such as Diwali and Vaisakhi, and mental health awareness initiatives including puppy visits for students. Dhaliwal is also heavily involved in his school’s sports teams, including badminton, rugby, volleyball, and cross country.

Other nominees were Armaan Brar from Aldergrove Community Secondary, Mackenzie Hurtubise from Langley Secondary, Annah Kuehl from Langley Christian Secondary, Grace Jerome from Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary school, and Parker Zhang from Walnut Grove Secondary.

Aldergrove couple and volunteers operating the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation, Cheryl Young and Nigel Thom, were awarded the John and Muriel Arnason Award.

Following her own diagnosis, Young founded the foundation and thrift store to support low-income community members and provide a dedicated space for those diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Her and Nigel Thom have dedicated years of volunteered time to the local thrift store to keep it running and affordable.

“We have not increased our prices in years, since we came out from Langley when we first opened,” Thom said.

“We know that the community is growing, we know that we are growing, and the community needs the help because a number of people here are low income.”

The thrift store recently moved to a new location located at 27540 Fraser Hwy.

“Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s volunteer awards. It’s important to recognize and thank all our community members who contribute their time and energy to volunteer,” said Mayor Eric Woodward.

“We are grateful for your dedication to enriching the quality of life for our residents and for making Langley a better place to live, work, and play.”

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Langley City honours community volunteers

IN OTHER NEWS: Langley Heritage Society restores century-old barn in Old Yale Park

Kyler Emerson

About the Author: Kyler Emerson

I'm excited to start my journalism career in Langley and meet our community.
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