GOOD NEIGHBOURS: North Delta volunteer wins Governor General medal

Trudean Olson was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers at a ceremony last month at Government House in Victoria.

Trudean Olson (left) receives the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Judith Guichon.

Trudean Olson (left) receives the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Judith Guichon.

A typical weekday for Trudean Olson might see her holding down the office at the local seniors’ centre by day, heading to an elementary school to help students learn to knit over lunch, then teaching adults to crochet in the evening.

And she does it all as a volunteer.

The North Delta resident’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, and Olson was among 30 British Columbians who received the 2017 Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers at a ceremony last month at Government House in Victoria. The award, formerly called the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians.

Olson went to Victoria for the ceremony and reception for the award, joined by her daughter, granddaughter and her granddaughter’s husband.

“It was lovely,” she said.

Her volunteering legacy goes back to the late sixties, when she volunteered for a Friday afternoon craft day at Richardson Elementary, where her children were students. She ran her own business for 30 years, creating handmade ceramic dolls and teaching others to make them.

In 2008, she returned to volunteering again after her husband got sick. He eventually passed away in 2009.

“I really needed something. I needed to be around people,” she said.

She got involved as a volunteer at the Kennedy Seniors’ Recreation Centre and enjoyed it so much she continues there to this day – working in the office, teaching crochet and knitting, and organizing dinners and teas as an active member of the social committee.

“Whatever I’m needed to do, I do.”

For Olson, the people she meets are the driving force behind her continued volunteerism.

“It becomes like a family there. Everyone is so nice and everybody just welcomes everybody when they come in.”

She also runs a colouring for adults class, which sees four or six women come together to chat and colour – a soothing and relaxing exercise.

“When I first started at Kennedy, people would come into the centre and just walk in and go to whatever they were doing. I made a point of saying good morning. I would try and learn one new person every week.”

Now, she knows almost everyone who comes in.

“It’s rewarding, so rewarding.”

Her volunteer experience has come full circle. On Fridays, after putting in a morning at Kennedy, she heads to Richardson as a “knitting granny,” helping kids in Grade 4 to 7 learn to knit.

A yearly volunteer opportunity she gladly accepts is playing the role of Mrs. Claus for the Corporation of Delta and the Kennedy Centre’s Christmas celebrations.

“It’s a lot of fun.”

Olson used to volunteer with the Princess Project, a program that helped outfit students who could not afford formal attire for prom. It was run by her daughter, a fellow recipient of the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

She will also be assisting at the Variety Show of Hearts telethon on Feb. 12.

Laura Saker of the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre has worked alongside Olson on the social committee since around 2010, and said she was not the least bit surprised that Olson had won the award.

“She’s the person we turn to for ideas on decorating and setting up,” Saker said. “She’s one of these people, she can do anything artistically. She’s incredible. For the centre, she’s been amazing.”

She describes Olson as multi-talented and a real people person.

“Anytime anyone makes a suggestion about something, Trudean just goes off and makes it,” she said, citing her talent for textiles and the arts.

“She’s very kind, she’s patient [and] she’s a great teacher,” she said. “I count on her.”

Olson said she encourages others get involved in volunteering.

“It’s so rewarding when you get into it. You learn as you go.”