Meet the Longtime Surrey Volunteer Who Kept Giving Back During the Pandemic
April 29, 2022 - From helping wildfire victims to building playgrounds, it’s all in a day’s work for Ian MacPherson.
The longtime volunteer has contributed over 600 hours of his time through the City of Surrey—and the pandemic didn’t slow him down.
“It’s been a very, very rewarding thing,” said Ian, who first volunteered with the City of Surrey in 2007. “I get so much out of it. Call it enlightened self-interest. I’m happy to help, happy to be involved and I learn so much about our community and who makes up our community. Surrey is a very interesting place.”
Most City programs were not able to have volunteers throughout the pandemic. However, a few positions remained open. Ian was one of the volunteers who stayed on, contributing his time to several Emergency Support Service callouts as well as COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics at city sites.
“It was a pleasure to work with health-care professionals, other volunteers, and the citizens of all adult ages who wished to be vaccinated,” he recalled. “We had up to three generations from families who came to get their shots. Many of the persons performing the vaccinations were police and fire service employees, and their spirit of collaboration was strong at all times. I was very proud to get the chance to help with crowd control and answering questions, and Surrey came through again.”
Over the years, both before and during the pandemic, Ian’s time as a volunteer has often included 4 a.m. call-outs to residential fires, where he arrives on scene to support individuals who are displaced, providing emotional and other support. He’s on-call in the same way staff who respond to these emergencies are.
“Sometimes it goes on for a couple of days,” he explained. “We’ve got to get people to come back, give them a recap of the situation and which units are going to be salvageable. We’ve had some very serious ones. There can be tough situations.”
“But I want to stress it’s been very rewarding. We’re helping our neighbours. And we’re working with staff, staff are mostly from parks, and they’re wonderful. They’re trained to work with residents of all ages, all backgrounds, all cultures.”
Ian says a particularly memorable and meaningful experience was volunteering at the Evacuation Centre set up in Cloverdale during the 2017 wildfires.
“I was there for two-thirds of those days. There were a lot of high-pressure situations, dealing with folks who had lost their homes or thought they had, and needed help. They were staying with friends or family here in the Lower Mainland but we were there to offer food, and other support. The operation changed every day because of the changing circumstances people were dealing with such as how many people required help, the nature of need, and what psychological help was required. I have to say, the Parks and Recreation staff, day in and day out, were remarkable. I was happy to help and they led the way.”
Ian said he encourages anyone that has an interest to explore the various volunteer opportunities through the City of Surrey.
“There are so many ways to get involved and give back. You’ll get just as much out of it as you put in.”
National Volunteer Week
April 24-30 is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate Ian and all the other dedicated community volunteers who tirelessly donate their time in Surrey.
Volunteers are vital and valuable in the City’s service delivery. Annually, City of Surrey volunteers contribute an average of 125,000+ hours of service.
Although the City’s volunteer programs were halted due to the pandemic in March 2020, staff stayed in touch with volunteers in providing regular program updates and resources. Over the last several months, Surrey has been re-engaging volunteers in several program areas. While many are eager to return to their volunteer role, the City is also encouraging community members to apply.
As volunteer programs relaunch in the coming weeks and months, Surrey is actively seeking volunteers in a number of programs across the city, including the following opportunities:
- Day Camps - Day Camp Assistant
- Make a positive impact while connecting with children in the community.
- Special Events - Event and Activity Assistant
- Special event volunteers support our annual events in various ways, including arts & crafts activities, face painting, button making, giveaways and more.
- Emergency Support Services - On-Call ESS Responder
- Emergency Support Services volunteers work at Reception Centres and provide referral services such as shelter, food, clothing, comfort and support. Volunteers receive an orientation, free ongoing training and have the opportunity to take part in practice drills.
- Parks - Partners in Parks and Friends of the Forest
- Friends of the Forest - Become a registered volunteer to be notified about upcoming stewardship activities such as tree planting, invasive plant removal events and more.
- Partners in Parks - Keep Surrey’s parks clean, beautiful, and safe for all to enjoy. Opportunities include park cleanups, planting programs, community engagement, and more.
- Community Engagement Volunteers with Fire Services
- Emergency Preparedness – Attend festivals and other community events to educate the public ways to stay prepared in an emergency.
- HomeSafe – Keep the public safe by helping them understand their fire risks and giving them the tools to increase their safety.
Explore these programs and other volunteer opportunities.