Lorraine Collet has earned a number of awards for her years of volunteer work with different organizations in the Victoria area. (Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff) Colwood resident Lorraine Collett has volunteering with an impressive number of organizations for many years. (Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff)

Greater Victoria transition home’s garden began with one volunteer

Colwood resident a tireless volunteer

Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff

A West Shore woman’s dedication to lending a helping hand has touched a number of organizations and earned a couple of awards.

Lorraine Collett, a Colwood resident since 1980, recently retired from tending the herb garden she helped establish 13 years ago at the Victoria Women’s Transition House.

“I was born with a green thumb,” said Collett, whose career involved working with people of all ages dealing with a range of issues in different locations around the world. “I did a variety of volunteer work at the transition house and noticed the boxes were already there for a herb garden, but they were in poor condition.”

After suggesting a herb garden would be a good idea, Collett got to work planting an array of herbs that has included Greek oregano, cilantro, tarragon, marjoram, bay leaf, fennel, thyme and several varieties of mint over the years.

It was originally created as a therapeutic program for the women who stay at the transition house and the herbs are used in the kitchen.

Collett said she will always appreciate donations from Slegg Lumber, Lynn’s Little Elf Garden Centre, Dig This and Home Hardware in getting the garden off the ground. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she noted.

Collett felt the time was right to end her volunteer work at the transition house in order to spend more time on her own garden.

“I’m leaving the herb garden at the transition house in good hands,” she said. “I like to think it will last forever.”

Collett received a Valued Elder Recognition award in 2012 at the age of 60 – the youngest person to receive that award – in acknowledgement of the more than 1,000 hours she contributed in a seven-year span at the Victoria Women’s Transition House.

But that’s only one of a garden variety of volunteer positions she has held over the years, including teaching special needs students from John Stubbs elementary how to swim at Centennial Pool.

Although she was a certified swimming instructor when she arrived in Canada from New Zealand, the certification wasn’t transferable, so Collett volunteered.

She has also worked at Queen Alexandra Hospital as a volunteer teacher’s aide.

Collett has also given her time at several hospitals in the Capital Region since 1989. She has been on the Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues for 20 years, and has been the spokesperson for the accessible transportation advisory committee with BC Transit for the past four years.

She also spent nearly seven years volunteering as a member of Colwood’s heritage committee.

“I like to keep busy,” she explained. “I enjoy giving back for what you get. Volunteering is addictive.”

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com