Hearts of the Community: Young volunteer devoted to assisting seniors

Volunteering with seniors, at the Saanich Fair, at her school — you name it and Melissa Rickson has probably given her time to it

Grade 12 Parkland Secondary School student Melissa Rickson was recognized for her dedication to the community with a Hearts of the Community Award this week.

Volunteering with seniors, at the Saanich Fair, at her school — you name it and Melissa Rickson has probably given her time to it.

The Grade 12 Parkland Secondary student is involved with several organizations but namely Resthaven Lodge where she has spent time assisting residents in different ways since 2008.

“Most of the people who live here have some level of dementia, which requires patience, understanding, acceptance and adaptability to ensure their well-being. While many adults are uncomfortable conversing with with some of our residents, Melissa has a gift for being able to converse freely with them,” explained Myrna Fox, the activity and volunteer coordinator at Resthaven.

Shortly after she began visiting residents at Resthaven, Rickson started serving refreshments, assisting residents with games and activities, calling Bingo and helping out residents and staff during outings to events like the Model Airplane Show and the P.A.T.S Picnic in the Park.

“Melissa accepts the residents’ limitations while encouraging their ability to play games, which increases their self-esteem,” Fox said.

“She even came up with two of her own games for the residents to play. It was amazing to see how the residents responded and she amazed the staff with the effort and thought put into her projects.”

At Parkland, Rickson gives her time to Student Council, the Parkland Green Team, the Interact Club and the Vital Youth Philanthropic Group.

“Melissa is always willing to help out with school events that need student involvement and she clearly values her school community. She is actively involved in making sure that the community remains a healthy and vibrant one,” said Parkland French teacher, Ann McLean of Rickson.

Rickson said she enjoys volunteering at Resthaven Lodge because she gets to interact with the residents.

“I love hearing about the history of the residents and the full lives they have lived,” she said.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to validate the residents’ feelings and I always leave with a smile.”

Rickson has future plans to become a teacher and is currently volunteering and job shadowing at both Sidney Elementary school (in a Grade 2/3 math class) and at North Saanich Middle School (in a Grade 6, 7 and 8 French classroom).

“Melissa would bring enthusiasm, passion and joy to the learning environment of future students,” said McLean.