Volunteer efforts earn recognition

Reception and garden honour estimated 100,000- hour gift to university

by Bruce Mason staff writer

A tiny garden with a huge heart is attracting attention at the entrance to Cecil Green Park House. It celebrates something beyond value--the work of volunteers. Another plant will be added this month in honour of a volunteer whose name will be drawn from a hat at a reception for UBC's volunteers on April 13.

"Hundreds of volunteers donate at least 100,000 hours to the university every year" says Leslie Konantz, associate executive director of the Alumni Association. "Faculties, schools, departments, boards--we all benefit from their energy and expertise."

"Two years ago we began to recognize this remarkable contribution during National Volunteer Week with the Volunteer Reception and Garden," she adds, "and we are undertaking a study of volunteers' economic impact at UBC."

This year it's the Museum of Anthropology's (MOA) turn to host the reception.

Judith Eyrl, who organized the event, made a call to the MOA 10 years ago when her children had grown and she had some time to devote.

"I asked if they accepted volunteers and was told, `Do we ever. We call them associates and value them highly as part of the museum team,'" she says. "I've always enjoyed the museum and my work with the staff."

MOA director Ruth Philips, who will speak at the reception, says, "Our volunteers are vital, they make an essential contribution to virtually every aspect of the museum, from education programs to work on collections, running the shop and providing hospitality to visitors."

Tish Davis, president of the 160 volunteers in Friends of the Garden (FOGs), who donated this year's plant, says, "Our purpose is to bring the community to the Botanical Garden and to stage special events to raise money to support its growth."

The plant is the UBC introduction Vaccinium ovatum `Thunderbird,' a small evergreen huckleberry which shares its name with the university's athletic teams. FOGs are helping to make the outstanding shrub--with its intense red-bronze spring colour, profusion of pink flowers and edible berries--available to the world. It is sold in the Shop in the Garden. Perhaps the most highly visible and hardest working UBC volunteer is Chancellor William Sauder, a graduate of the university and chair of International Forest Products Ltd. and Sauder Industries.

"I have benefited a great deal from the province and want to give something back," says UBC's 15th chancellor, who was first appointed in 1996 and is now serving a second term as chancellor.

"UBC is an increasingly important institution and our tireless and selfless volunteers recognize this and are helping the university meet its challenges," he adds. "We are truly indebted to them."