Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney offers seniors unique volunteer positions

SODC is run almost solely by volunteers, among them, several active seniors who do more than their fair share around the local aquarium.

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The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre (SODC) is run almost solely by volunteers, among them, several active seniors who do more than their fair share around the local aquarium.

“I know for me, and I think most seniors who end up volunteering, previously led very active lives,” said SODC volunteer Mikes Patterson.

“For people like that, to retire and not have something to do, it can be very difficult.”

Paterson has been involved with the SODC since its inception four years ago and before that she volunteered with the marine ecology centre. She holds a unique volunteer role with the SODC working as a specimen collector.

“Collecting specimens, working by myself and getting out into nature is something I love doing,” Patterson explained.

“That’s the nice thing about the Centre is that once you’ve done the training you can kind of decide where you want to be volunteering.”

Much like Patterson, Anne Watt got involved in volunteering with the SODC two years ago because she missed working life.

“I was no longer working and I missed having something to do during the day, so I thought why not volunteer? I tried a couple of places before I came to the Centre and it was just a perfect fit for me,” Watt said, adding that her time spent volunteering also helps keep her sharp.

“It’s a great way to continue to use your mind and learn new things. I do a lot of cataloguing and keep track of the volunteer hours so I’m always using the computer which is a good way to keep my skills relevant.”

Cliff Cunningham, who has been volunteering with the SODC for three years, said it’s the interaction with the guests that keeps him involved.

“One of the things I learned from volunteering here is how much I enjoy interacting with the public,” said Cunningham, adding he especially enjoys seeing children learn and absorb from their visits to the Centre.

Cunningham also agreed with his fellow volunteers that working at the SODC constantly keeps him learning.

“I have lived on the coast for the most of my life so in my retirement I thought why not learn more about what goes on in our ocean? It’s just a great way to not only get out and socialize but also to keep learning about the Salish Sea.”

Christina Smethurst, who works in innovation advancement for the Centre, said volunteers, especially seniors, keep the Centre running like clockwork.

“The Centre is really run by volunteers and we wouldn’t be here without them,” Smethurst explained.

“To have volunteers in general is one thing, but to have senior volunteers, that’s special because most have already had a full career and have so much to share.”

Smethurst added that getting involved with the Centre is easy.

“We always have openings and once they’ve been trained, volunteers start on the floor working with the public. After a while, if the volunteers find they are interested in one particular aspect of the Centre like the schools programs or the senior sessions, they can start working more in those areas.”

Patterson added that she thinks people often think about volunteering but hesitate to reach out or make the commitment.

“The easiest thing to do is to just get involved,” she finished.

For more information on volunteering with the SODC, contact Beth Watkins at 250-665-7511 or email community@oceandiscovery.ca.


Are you a senior looking to volunteer?

Here are some organizations looking for assistance.

• Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association provides a riding program for children and adults with disabilities. If you enjoy horses and people, this would appeal to you. No experience is necessary, (we provide training), however, volunteers must be 16 years of age or older. Please contact volunteer@vtra.ca or call 778-426-0506 for more information.

• Summer brings visitors to the Saanich Peninsula and the Visitor Centres on the highway and in Sidney are staffed by volunteers. Meet people from all over the world while promoting and supporting your local communities. No experience necessary and training is provided. Interested? Call Carol at 250-665-7362 or drop in to 2281 Beacon Ave. today.

• Take the Pressure Down is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to work at our community blood pressure clinics. Please call Caroline Macey-Brown at 250-217-8585 or email cmaceybrown@beaconcs.ca if you are interested.

• Join Heritage Acres and strengthen your community connection. Our old time village and museum offer you an opportunity to expand your interests and talent with other volunteers and an appreciative public. You are welcome for coffee in the morning. Call 250-652-5522.

• Ducks Unlimited Saanich Peninsula Committee is always looking for volunters to join our committee. If you’re interested in becoming a member and volunteering, call Daniel Shnitka for more information at 250-888-6947 or email d_shnitka@ducks.ca.