June Young readily admits two things: she’s a people person and, she can’t just sit still.
These attributes have served the White Rock senior well over the years – and at least two organizations that depend on volunteers have also benefited.
This week, Surrey Mounties were excited to share news of crocheted toques that were made and donated by Young for officers to distribute to the city’s homeless through the cold snap that walloped the Lower Mainland.
Many of the people we come across on a daily basis simply do not have the appropriate clothing for winter. A big thank you to our #SurreyRCMP volunteer June, who knitted 200+ of these warm toques for officers to distribute to those in need. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/FfrQvTq5mt
— Surrey RCMP (@SurreyRCMP) January 14, 2020
The colourful hats, Young said, are what she whips up when she’s watching television, and while she’s been making them for the homeless for about three years now, the publicity her effort received this week was unexpected.
“I never thought anyone would get excited about my hats,” Young said Wednesday, after being showcased on TV news the evening before. “It’s just something I do to keep me busy.
“I’m very happy that they’ve been so well-received.”
Young, 75, has been volunteering locally since moving back to B.C. with her husband Gerald 15 years ago.
The couple returned to the West Coast after spending three years in Geneva and 10 in Paris – among 16 moves over the years – due to Gerald’s work in the banking industry, Young said.
Born in Scotland, Young grew up in Liverpool and learned to knit from her mother when she was just seven years old (many years later, after developing arthritis, she taught herself to crochet). She emigrated to B.C. in 1966, following her parents, who had settled in Kelowna one year prior. Turns out it was a particularly good decision, as Kelowna is where Young and her husband met. The couple have now been married 52 years.
“And we still like other and we still love each other,” Young said.
Young said she discovered the RCMP’s need for volunteers during a visit to Semiahmoo Library shortly after arriving in White Rock. The 1815 152 St. building is also home to Surrey RCMP’s District 5 office.
“I was looking for something to do and went to the library. When I came out, I saw this sign (about the need for community policing volunteers),” she said
In the years that followed, Young routinely spent at least eight hours a week at the District 5 office, lending a hand wherever needed – from helping those who came to the front counter and typing up Speed Watch letters, to sharing information on the various programs at community events.
“It was like a family,” Young said, of the relationships that naturally developed through volunteering with the largely the same group of people.
“We were just like a very well-knit family – we all liked each other and we had a lot of fun. I always worked with the same people, we became very good friends.”
While her hours with the RCMP have lessened in recent years, Young’s enthusiasm for volunteering remains strong.
Now, she spends even more time at OWL Rehabilitation Society, a non-profit that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured and orphaned raptors. Young became involved eight years ago, and said it’s become a passion.
It’s also where her hats-for-homeless efforts took root, after a fellow volunteer offered her his late wife’s wool. Little did she know the cache would fill eight garbage bags.
“I didn’t know what to do with it,” she said. “I started making hats for the OWL gift shop.”
After discovering she had colours that didn’t work for children’s toques, Young began crocheting hats for the homeless.
She can make up to two in a night, and said the task is so “very, very easy,” she doesn’t need a pattern, or even to look at what she’s doing.
“It’s good for my hands, too,” she noted.
Last year, Young gave close to 100 toques to the Surrey RCMP’s winter clothing drive.
This year’s contribution has doubled, following the discovery of an additional basket of the hats that Young had forgotten she’d made and put away.
Knowing they’re adding a little warmth to those in the community who need it most is rewarding, she said.
“It’s just a really nice feeling to know that they appreciate it, and that I am doing a little bit of good. It’s kind of nice that you can do something, even if it’s only something small.”
Young said she would welcome donations of wool from anyone who finds themselves with extra on their hands.
She may be reached by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org