Oak Bay Volunteer Services’ new executive director has a vision of a swatch of volunteers happily sashaying along the Oak Bay Tea Party parade route. It’s all part of Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen’s plan to grow the organization from its solid 40-year foundation.
About 200 volunteers offer about 500 residents support services such as driving, visiting, walking or wheelchair pushes, reading and writing, phone call greetings, preparation of simple income tax returns, minor repairs and gardening.
“This organization is just so full of passion, compassion for the people that we work with in the community. It’s been a dream. Oak Bay is a wonderful community,” says Lormé-Gulbrandsen, who took the helm last summer. “It’s still such a beautiful small-town feeling where neighbours want to help neighbours.”
Originally from New York, she came to OBVS with an education from UVic and Ryerson. She’s worked for a small organization and the large the large BC Sustainable Energy Association as well as the International Institute for Child Rights and Development where she still holds a seat on the board.
“They’re the ones who really got me invested in the non-profit sector,” says Lormé-Gulbrandsen, adding “I’m a serial volunteer too.”
She’s offered hours for groups such as Victoria Women’s Transition House and Victoria General Hospital along with the natural volunteering that comes as a mother of two.
She has a plan to grow the Oak Bay organization from a primarily retiree-based volunteer group with older clientele.
“The vision I have is that we can make a much bigger impact,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen says. “We haven’t touched the lives of all the seniors who could really use our help. I imagine there’s still some who live in isolation independently and maybe don’t know what we’re offering. I really want to get out there into the community more and really tell people about the great work of the volunteers, the great services we offer and get more clients in to be supported. We’re here for them and we want everybody to be here for them.”
She has a new volunteer strategy focused on engaging young people, which started with meeting with Monterey Middle School earlier this month.
“I’ve talked to other groups interested in getting youth involved, so part of my work will be developing programs that support young people in volunteering. Their priorities and time availability is different from my other volunteers,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen syas.
While she works on rebranding the organization with a new look and feel that could be seen as early as spring, she’s also developing outreach strategies to augment the first – developing the inaugural volunteer fair with Monterey Recreation Centre and the Community Association of Oak Bay last winter.
“It’s about being more connected in the community,” she says.
Part of connecting, and adding volunteers, is building on services beyond the shopping and drives that make OBVS so successful already.
“That’s sort of our bread and butter services, but because our organization actually can support all ages I really want to do an environmental scan of the area,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen says. “We serve people in need and it doesn’t have to be a certain age, it doesn’t have to be a certain socioeconomic status … if someone’s in need and they can use our services, we’re here to help.”
Oak Bay Volunteer Services Society is located in the lower level of municipal hall, at 101-2167 Oak Bay Ave. and open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Call 250-595-1034 for more information on services or to volunteer.
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