Marlene Barry

Volunteers at heart of community

Marlene Barry steps back from volunteer centre after a decade of service

What does it take to have the heart of a volunteer? It’s a question that few Sookies ask themselves, despite that so many think of their community before they think of themselves.

This line of thought started for Marlene Barry more than 10 years ago, when she noticed there was a dire need for a volunteer co-ordination hub that networked with organizations in the community to provide aid and council to its residents.

Formed from the Sooke Community Health Initiative, Barry helped launch and stitch together a conglomerate of organizations and volunteers in the local community, all of whom thought with the same thing she did – their hearts – which became known as the Sooke Region Volunteer Centre.

Now, after 13 years of leading the pack, Barry is ready to hand over the reigns to a new co-ordinating director, fellow Sookie Dawn Humphreys.

“I’m really excited about handing over the reigns to Dawn, she has some similar but albeit different life experiences and skills that I have, and she has that bubbly enthusiasm that I brought into what I do, so it’s encouraging to see that,” she said. “I think she’s got the creative mindset to look outside the box.”

As far as the volunteer centre goes, Barry says it really felt it was a good time to have some new eyes, new energy, and review the whole process.

“I felt I had taken it as far as I could take it, so I was really happy to get it off the ground and get it developed to this point,” she said, adding that she will focus more on her refloxology business here in Sooke, a practice she’s been doing on top of everything else for 22 years.

Originally born in Victoria, Barry has been in Sooke for more than 40 years, so it’s been more than just home, but a place to grow and develop in. Likewise, the volunteer centre gave her an opportunity to challenge herself and to really feel like she’s giving something back from within.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for me … there were lots of times when I overdid it or over-extended myself, but that was my choice, there wasn’t anyone pressuring me to take on more or do more. That was just me, and I enjoyed it,” Barry said.

She couldn’t do it without her team though, as most organizations, while a leader is important, they can’t do it all alone.

“Somebody has to take the lead, but without that team behind you, you don’t even know if you’re going in the right direction. You need people to guide you, to learn.”

The role as leader is certainly getting passed into good hands. Humphreys has a few volunteering notches on her belt as well, having served on more than 15 boards, with her volunteer experience ranging from youth and arts, to mental health and grant writing.

Humphreys is excited to take on her new position at the centre, while also being close to her family here in Sooke.

“I can’t believe this opportunity of furthering community connection has been given to me,” she said. “I’m so excited, have great ideas to share but also want to meet everyone and find out where they are and what their ideas are first.

Adopting a similar mantra as Barry, she’s ready to carry the torch, especially when it comes to involving more youth.

“We need our teens. If we can get that message out, we can seriously show them how to get where they want to go,” Humphreys said.

As for Barry, she’s taking a year off from active volunteering, though she says she’ll still be involved in one-off events such as the Sooke Fine Arts Fair and provide a base of knowledge to Humphreys as she settles in her position.