OCOP: ‘A lifetime of volunteering’

Carla Reed has spent the majority of her life helping others.

Between putting in hours with elementary schools at the intergenerational garden, welcoming new residents at the immigration services society, Carla Reed is a senior who doesn’t stop.

Reed lives alone with her cat, Maisy, but spends much of her time in the community.

“Since I live alone, I like getting out of my apartment and being with people. It’s the chance to see people from all over the place and of all ages.”

Reed has lived in Maple Ridge for 13 years, when she took up her first local volunteer position caring for cats at Katie’s Place, followed by volunteering at the Friends in Need food bank and helping with Earth Days and the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society. She also is on her apartment building’s strata council.

“You get involved with so many events and get to see familiar faces,” said Reed.

Currently, she continues to volunteer with the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society intergenerational garden, which started in Maple Ridge approximately five years ago. Reed has volunteered there since the beginning, working with schools.

“We meet with a class once a week. They come with their teacher to see what food is all about and learn how things grow. Kids need to know where food comes from, and how to use it.”

Seniors and students work together to grow and harvest produce at the garden. Some plots at the intergenerational garden are also for the food bank.

Another priority for Reed is volunteering with the immigration services society, where she’s met people who have become lifelong friends.

“They have to adapt to a whole different way of life. I end up becoming friends with them even after the mentoring period is over.”

Reed helps immigrants with finding housing, having conversations, and providing advice.

She knows what it’s like to move to a new country, as she came from China when she was a teenager.

During her post-secondary education, Reed realized she had a knack for social justice and a desire to help people.

For the majority of her life, Reed worked as a social worker in Vancouver.

Volunteering with many organizations has given her a better understanding of different lifestyles and people. Reed has also learned an important life lesson from volunteering.

“Personally, for me, because I depend on friendships made while volunteering, is that you realize often you get close to people, but they’re going to move on. I think I’ve learned to make friends, but also realize to let go. It’s the same thing that happens with your kids,” explained Reed.

She believes volunteering is something everybody can and should do.

“For older people, it’s easy to become lonely and feel as if you’re not needed anymore. People think they don’t have specific skills, but everyone has the skill of talking to other people. Volunteering will give you a new lease on life.”

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