Jennifer Ellis
By Jennifer Ellis
May 15th, 2014

This week’s column is focused on Mary Hatlevik, who has been a volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society since Terry Fox made his run across Canada in 1980 motivating her to start offering her time for the cause. That’s thirty-four years of consistent volunteering! Mary was nominated for this article by the staff at the Canadian Cancer Society in Trail for her many years of service.

Mary is the leader for the Rossland Unit of the Canadian Cancer Society. The main focus of her volunteer efforts are the annual fresh daffodil campaign and organizing the canvassing for the Cancer Society that is undertaken during the month of April every year. Hatlevik also participates in the Robusters dragon boat team, as a breast cancer survivor, and organizes the Robusters Relay for Life team.

Mary estimates that she volunteers six hours a week from February to May, mostly finding and organizing the canvassers who work in this area. The daffodil campaign precedes the canvassing. “It’s a feel good thing that raises awareness that the campaign month is coming,” Mary observed. Hatlevik is responsible for finding the volunteers who go door to door in Rossland to raise funds for the Cancer Society. “I have to get creative to find enough canvassers,” Mary said. “But people are always nice when you show up on their doorstep.”

Mary was quick to point out that much of the work undertaken by the Canadian Cancer Society in this area is as a result of the commitment and support of the Rossland unit members who help her with both the campaigns she volunteers for, and the efforts of the three Canadian Cancer Society staff in Trail, who organize a multitude of local events including the Relay for Life, and recently, the Slopes for Hope.

When I asked Mary what her motivations were for getting involved and staying involved for so many years, she said, “My grandmother had cancer so I guess that is part of it. But things are so much better than when Terry Fox died. The response rates for so many kinds of cancer, including childhood cancer, are so much higher. People are diagnosed earlier because of the education and public awareness undertaken by groups like the Cancer Society. So lives are being saved. It feels good knowing we are making a difference in people’s lives. Seeing the amount of money we raise through the canvassing is very satisfying. Buying the daffodils make people feel good. And, of course, I get to work with other people and I’ve made a lot of friends through my volunteering.”

Some of the challenges Mary described are typical of many volunteer organizations – finding enough volunteers to help, and finding someone to replace her, some day, although she noted that volunteering for the Cancer Society “will always be a part of my life, but someday I might like to step back a bit.” With regard to finding more people, Mary observed, “these things take a lot of time, and with more people, they would take less time.”

Mary noted that getting people to volunteer is sometimes all about just asking them directly. “There are probably a lot of volunteers in our community who don’t know it yet. They just have to be asked at the right time by the right organization. To be a part of an organization, particularly as a volunteer, you really have to believe in what you are doing. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking people to volunteer. Some will say no. Some will say maybe in a few years or next year, and some, for whom it is the right time in their lives, will say yes, and some, like my friend Margaret, will not only say yes, but also show up with three people from her art group.”

Sometimes it is just about asking. Thanks Mary for so many years of asking people to help, and for all of your own hours of service.

The Telegraph wants to profile all of the amazing people and groups who make our town what it is. No volunteering effort is too small. If you want to nominate a volunteer or a non-profit organization, or yourself, for a profile contact us here. We have received an amazing response and have lots of great volunteers queued up, but keep the suggestions coming.

Jennifer Ellis is a local writer and consultant. The ebook of her second novel, In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, explores the issues of a non-money economy in a post-apocalyptic future and has just been released. The paperback is coming soon!

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