For more than three decades, Betty Howlett has been a dedicated volunteer for Woolwich Community Services.When the organization gathered for its annual volunteer appreciation event at the St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre Monday evening, the Elmira resident became the first person to receive an award for 30 years of service.
Asked what the honour means to her, Howlett responded humbly.
“There are certainly many people who put in a lot more time than I do,” she said. “There are so many people here in Elmira that are committed to making this a better community, and that is great. I guess I have always just thought that it was the thing to do. If you can, then it’s important to give back to your community.”
Howlett’s commitment with Woolwich Community Services began in the mid-1980s when she helped look after children for mothers that were taking part in parenting classes at St. James Lutheran Church.
“I guess I must’ve known one of the other babysitters and decided to take part,” she explained. “I enjoyed it. I had two children of my own so, it came naturally.”
Howlett also helped out at the WCS thrift shop, while also taking part in the “Care-Ring” transportation program, which provides transportation for people under the age of 65 to medical appointments, free of charge; she continues to serve as a driver today.
“I’ve always enjoyed meeting people,” she said, noting that the Care-Ring program is a vital service for people who can’t afford to own a vehicle, but don’t yet apply for the transportation services offered to seniors by Community Care Concepts, another Elmira-based agency.
Along with the 30-years of service recognition, Howlett also received the Yvonne Reid volunteer of the year award.
“In the early years, Betty joined us by helping out with our moms group,” Woolwich Community Services community resource coordinator Angie Melchin said. “So what she would do is babysit, while the mothers would take part in the program where they would learn a lot of different things. And then after that, Betty started driving for us with the Car-Ring transportation program and she has been driving for us ever since.”
Woolwich Community Services depends on its 120 volunteers – plus an additional 200 during the holiday season’s Christmas Goodwill drive – Melchin said.
“Woolwich Community Services is a non-profit, and while we have a few staff members here, we are run by our volunteers. Many of our programs simply wouldn’t be able to exist without our volunteers.”
She continued, “As our director Don (Harloff) explained at the appreciation night, the amount of volunteers that we have and the amount of hours they put in last year would represent four full-time staff members.”
As for Howlett, she plans to keep supporting WCS for many years to come.
“It really is a great organization,” she said. “There are so many things that they offer that really help people, and I think that is really important.”