By Tina Kelly –
Ten years or a decade – either way you state it – that’s a long time. In 2009, a five-year plan came together when the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre* officially opened its doors with a kelp-ribbon cutting on June 20. Close to 800 visitors flooded through the submarine doors every day that first summer. Keeping the guests engaged with exciting exhibits was the job for a team of committed “Oceaneers,” the marine-inspired label for Centre volunteers. Ten years on, some of those original Oceaneers continue to give.
Spearheading the volunteer program back in 2008 was Beth Watkins. Beth was employee number one, the Community Coordinator hired by founding Executive Director, Angus Mathews. After many years, and a variety of roles, Beth retired in 2017. But, missing the vibrant atmosphere, animals and enthusiastic staff and volunteers, Beth became a volunteer herself! Once a week Beth spends time in the Aquarist Department, feeding the fish.
Beth brought along two special friends – Mikes and Marlies – when she joined the Centre. Over the years, Mikes P. has volunteered in many capacities, both onsite and off, supporting evening events, feeding the exhibits, and assisting with collecting trips and the youth program. She says the latter, staying connected with young people, is a major perk of volunteering. With 2,793 volunteer hours under her belt, Mikes describes the Centre as a home away from home and credits her time at the centre for enriching her life and having a positive influence on her own environmental footprint.
Marlies W. enjoys people and loves to roam through the exhibits where she can pass along her knowledge and insight to visitors. Although Marlies feels a pressing urgency to educate others over concern for the environment, she always does so with a welcoming, calm, kind approach. While she enjoys connecting with all guests, Marlies feels it is extra special to highlight our Salish Sea bioregion for visitors from landlocked regions.
Another long-time volunteer who
deserves a mention is Jill S.
With a science background and strong environmental ethics, Jill was drawn to volunteering when her move to North Saanich coincided with the Centre’s opening. Jill’s early days were spent educating visitors throughout the galleries but now she arrives at the Centre bright and early to harvest and prepare plankton for hungry fish and invertebrates. Using some of her other skills, Jill has occasionally taken on special projects – constructing a wood interactive interpretive display, creating a salmon lifecycle activity and sewing a cover for our plankton towers.
With all of these volunteers, a common theme emerges reflecting their motivations for staying involved. Not only do they share a genuine interest in marine life and lifelong learning, they stress friendships and giving back to the community as reasons to maintain their connection to the Centre.
When asked about her 10 years with the Centre, Beth responded: “The volunteers have always been a huge part of the experience and I am proud to have been involved.” The Centre is truly indebted to all of the volunteers dedicating time and energy to the organization, but there is a special warm and fuzzy sense of gratitude for those who have been with us for a decade.
*Now the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
Interested in volunteering? Visit salishseacentre.org for more details. Interested in visiting? The Centre is open daily at 10 a.m.