Gladys Otto, Senior volunteer

At close to 90 years old, active volunteer and community member Gladys Otto shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Otto, who is affectionately known as “the GO girl” (stemming from her initials), is an almost lifelong community member of Central Saanich. During her life here, she has given her time to many volunteer organizations over the years and continues to do so.

Otto moved from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Central Saanich with her family in 1933 when she was 11 years old. She attended primary school at West Saanich school (now the Brentwood Guide and Scout Hall) and later attended secondary school at Mount Newton high school. “I’ve seen so many changes in this town, all the way back to when it was all dirt roads and farmers’ fields,” Otto remarked about her memories as a young girl in Brentwood.

Later on in life, Otto had three children with her first husband, Paul Delbrouck and that is when her volunteering really began. “As soon as I had school-aged children I was finding all sorts of ways to volunteer and help out in the community,” said Otto.

When her children were young, Otto was a member of the Parent Teacher Association and helped to start the very first Kindergarten in the area. Otto has also been a member of the North and South Saanich Agricultural Society for almost her entire life; she joined as a junior member and has stayed with the society since. Otto still helps every year at the fair with the Junior Section and holds a Lifetime Membership with the society. Otto was (and still is, in some cases) involved with organizations like the Girl Guides of Canada, the YWCA, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, the Saanich Pioneers Association (of which she was the president at one point and is still a member) and most notably the Central Saanich Senior Citizen’s Association (also known as CSSCA or simply The Centre).

Otto’s contribution to The Centre has been one of the main driving forces behind its success over the years. Otto was one of the first members of the association, as well as one of the main board members that helped to initially get The Centre going.

She and the group of CSSCA pioneers fought for some time to receive funding and a space for The Centre to call home and they finally succeeded in doing so. In 1979 the CSSCA opened its doors and Otto has been an integral part of ever since. The Centre, which is located in the adjoining building to the Brentwood branch of the Greater Victoria Library, is an organization that offers activities, outings and social meetings for people over age 50 in the community.

The Centre has many scheduled activities like bingo, Scottish dancing, aerobics, ping pong, carpet bowling, Nintendo Wii and others, many of which Otto attends regularly. In reference to her ambition, zest for life and her passion for the CSSCA, Otto exclaimed, laughing: “Basically I see myself as a joiner and a doer.”

Otto has been recognized for many of her contributions to local organizations and societies. In 1985 she was the recipient of the Community Service Award from the Central Saanich Lions Club and 1996 she was nominated for the Women of Distinction Award by the YWCA of Victoria for her volunteer work in the community. She has also been recognized for her various memberships and positions held within her community groups like her presidency, board membership and association executive positions with the CSSCA. Although this is the first year that Otto won’t be a member of the board or executive for the CSSCA she still remains very active as a member of The Centre.

In her spare time these days, the grandmother of four regularly attends activities at The Centre including mild aerobics two or three times a week, social events like teas and potlucks, and she is also a long time member of the CSSCA choir which she attends practices for weekly.