Things change after 35 years and for the Dinsmores, Bert and Doris, volunteering has been an evolution.
The couple was honoured with Oak Bay Volunteer Services’ annual recognition award for 2020 on Sept. 16. It was a small celebration in the garden of their Oak Bay home, small enough that Bert cracked a surprise bottle of champagne as it was also their 38th wedding anniversary.
The two were also presented with the Oak Bay Oak Leaf, as presented by Mayor Kevin Murdoch. Oak Bay council also sent a framed photograph of the ocean off Oak Bay.
“We have met a lot of fine people and were able to help in so many different ways,” said Bert, who has been most passionate about helping elders with their gardens.
Throughout their time the couple held all sorts of roles. Doris twice sat as chair of the Oak Bay Volunteer Services executive board, a five-year term each time. She also served her 35 years in the office. The two still put in time despite Doris’ limited mobility and are now ambassadors of Oak Bay Volunteer Services.
The ceremony was a small, socially distanced gathering in the backyard of their Upland Estates home.
“Our volunteer celebrations are usually a big event so it had to be a quaint and intimate affair this year, but we wanted to make sure you were recognized,” said OBVS executive director Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen.
Bert told the story of one of his first volunteer sessions. He showed up to help an Oak Bay senior who had asked for help packing a few things up.
It was his first lesson on the balance of staying true to what Oak Bay Volunteer Services can offer, and the limits to what can be done.
“When I got inside, there were piles of newspapers all the way up the stairs,” he said. “She was a hoarder.”
When he got to the back garden, it was chest high and overgrown.
“When I came back the next week, I said, ‘I’m sorry, but Oak Bay Volunteer Services can’t help you with this [garden],’” he recalled. “You need a bulldozer.”
Bert helped dozens, if not hundreds of Oak Bay residents with getting their gardens started in the spring. It was something he took extra joy in and still does.
“We met a lot of really nice people.”