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Volunteering a way of life for local resident

Lois Heaton was awarded the Governor General of Canada’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. She was nominated by her husband, Gerry. (Photo by Dave Flaherty)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

For Oshawa resident Lois Heaton, volunteering is a “way of life.”

Heaton was a recent recipient of the Governor General of Canada’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

Heaton says her husband Gerry had nominated her for the award  more than a year ago, and they were both “shocked” when she received notice she would be receiving it.

“And I kept saying to him don’t be upset if it doesn’t happen because there are so many other people who have done a lot more than I have,” she says.

While Heaton says it is nice to be recognized, she noted there are many others in the community who are just as deserving of the honour.

Volunteering has been a big part of Heaton’s life going back to her youth.

“I volunteered in high school, and have ever since. It’s just the way we did things,” she says.

She joined the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) in 1964 and has been involved with that organization ever since.

“We are a service group with a purpose to provide a quality of life for individuals through education, program, service, and citizenship,” Heaton says.

The Golden Jubilee Chapter which she belongs to supports numerous causes throughout the community, including local secondary schools, Simcoe Hall Settlement House and the Boys and Girls Club of Durham.

They recently donated $2,000 to Hearth Place Cancer Support Centre in Oshawa.

“We do as much as we can,” she says.

She is also a member of the local chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority.

As her two young sons grew up, she became heavily involved in Scouting, and eventually became a provincial trainer who helped to develop programs all across Ontario.

“I had two boys, what did I do with them? I joined Scouting and we all went through the movement together,” she says with a laugh.

Heaton says she became very passionate about Scouting, and she wanted the programs to reflect what the youth desired.

“Kids could have if you listen to what they wanted to do and adapt into the scouting program. We had a great time,” she says.

She currently volunteers two days a week at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 in Oshawa, preparing daily receipts for the organization’s treasurer.

In addition, she helps to organize the annual Youth Speaking competitions, a task she particularly enjoys.

“They are nervous, but also prepared and excited. It’s great to hear them, I just love it,” she says.

She also volunteers at the Oshawa Senior Centre, namely in with their yearly tax clinics.

In all, Heaton estimates she gives about 35 to 45 hours of her time on a monthly basis.

While retired now, she still managed to volunteer while raising a family and working full-time.

However, she acknowledges that many people today don’t have the time.

“Young people today, they’re busy, it’s very difficult. They’re struggling to survive,” she observes. “There’s less of it now from the younger generations, the fact is, they are very busy.”

Heaton says it is a struggle for service clubs and other organizations to attract volunteers and concedes this is just part of how society has become.

“The older generation is the one that still believes in volunteering because they seed the need.”

While she was honoured to be recognized, Heaton says that is not why she does the work she does.

“I’m just happy doing what I’m doing. I don’t need to get anything back,” she says. “It’s just natural. It’s a good feeling. You’re filling a need for someone.”

She encouraged others to try volunteering and notes that every little bit counts.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet other people and participate in the community,” she says.

The website volunteerdurham.net provides a listing of numerous volunteering opportunities in Oshawa and across Durham Region.