Past Featured Volunteers

Jim Durnford Jim Durnford, Senior Principal IT Analyst

Jim Durnford, Senior Principal IT Analyst at APS, has been volunteering - in his community and beyond - for many years. His mother paved the way by being a Girl Guide volunteer for 21 years. Now Jim is following in her footsteps by donating time to his community.

One volunteer effort close to Jim's heart is the time he gives freely to Scouts Canada. Jim was a Scout as a boy and began volunteering with Scouts when he and his wife enrolled their two sons in the program over 13 years ago. "It's funny," Jim says, "My wife signed me up as a volunteer without telling me, and even though my boys are no longer Scouts, she can't get me to stop!"

When asked how much time Jim spends volunteering with Scouts, he chuckles, "Only two hours a week. That's what they tell you when you start. It's a running joke with the volunteer recruiters." Jim actually devotes many hours to Scouts and wears numerous volunteer hats. He currently serves as a Venture Advisor, Group Committee Member, Camp Chief, Scout Trainer, Deputy Area Commissioner and Elections Officer. He attends at least three Scout meetings per month, participates in two bottle-drive fundraisers per year and goes on camping and canoe trips between two and ten times a year. Jim says his favourite part about volunteering with Scouts is "seeing the huge smiles on kids' faces." He doesn't mind the camping either.

Jim also takes his passion for technology and helping youth by volunteering with the Alberta FIRST Lego League (FLL). FLL introduces young students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots. Jim has been on the organizing committee since 2006, and helps plan the Robotics Competition for students in grades five to nine. "My wife is a science teacher and brought this competition to her school. I was impressed by its leadership component, core values and friendly competition, and wanted to get involved."

Volunteering with Scouts and FIRST Lego League has given Jim the opportunities to network, travel and make friends of all ages. When asked about the importance of volunteerism, Jim says, "Volunteering is important to society. It keeps kids involved in the community and out of trouble, and teaches them important skills like leadership and team work."

Jim's volunteer efforts don't stop with Scouts and FLL. He also donates his time to APS fundraiser events for the Stollery Children's Hospital. When asked how he finds the time to volunteer, Jim simply states, "I don't know, I just do!"

Ken Hemmerling Ken Hemmerling, Database Administrator

Ken Hemmerling is an inspiration to his coworkers, and his volunteer work is proof of that.

For the past two years, Ken has led a Learn to Run program at Alberta Pensions Services Corporation (APS) twice a week during the lunch hour. The 10-week program, featured every spring, is open to all employees and contractors, and is designed to progress runners to a point where they can run for 10 minutes without interruption.

Ken began his running career more than six years ago after wife, Deb, encouraged him. Deb took her own learn to run clinic and asked Ken to help her maintain the running program. This sparked a new love for Ken, and he has been running ever since.

The benefits of running are many. Ken relates, "I once heard the term 'moving meditation' and that's really what it is for me. Running helps to calm my mind and it gives me a chance to work things out."

Enthusiasts of his running group have shared similar comments:
    "Ken's dedication is very admirable. He has even come to work on his days off just to lead the running group. He'll run with the slower runners and is very considerate of all of the people in his group."
    - Ayako

    "We really appreciate that Ken has taken the time to do this program. It's a great way to get to know my coworkers."
    - Brian

Julie Babiak - courtesy of Julie Babiak, Desktop Support Analyst

Julie Babiak is devoted to volunteering.

She dedicates every Tuesday evening and one or two Friday evenings a month to the youth at her church. She has been doing this for five years.

"Since it is a consistent activity I do, as a family we know it is there and we schedule around it," says Julie when asked how she finds time to volunteer in addition to being a mom, and having a full-time career. "It is no different than scheduling exercise, sports, children's activities or dates with your spouse."

As a youth sponsor in her church, Julie gets to hang out with, listen to, counsel, educate and participate in the lives of youth in grades 7 through 12. During the school year Julie chaperones church camps two weekends a year.

As a church group, she accompanies the teens to service projects about once a month. This can be as simple as raking leaves, shoveling snow or completing garbage clean-up for church neighbors. Twice a year they cook a meal at the Mustard Seed in downtown Edmonton. The teens also bake and create meals for people with health issues in the church, and they have been known to wash walls, baseboards and toys.

"When I am not volunteering, I miss it. It becomes part of you. The energy and passion today's youth have is amazing and very addictive."

Julie suggests visiting to find volunteer opportunities in the city of Edmonton.

"We live in the city of champions and one of the greatest things Edmonton has is its volunteers."

Shari McNeil Shari McNeil, Pension Analyst - Plan Operations

Shari McNeil enjoys helping others and giving back to her community.

"Volunteering is a part of my life. My parents were active volunteers and it is something I just do," says Shari McNeil of her reasons for volunteering. "I have met many people and gained new skills."

Shari's volunteer activities have changed as her life has changed - like being on a City of Edmonton board when she lived in Edmonton, to serving on a board for the County of Strathcona when she moved to Sherwood Park. As her children became school age, she volunteered at their schools, both on the parent councils and at the schools. As they became involved in various activities like diving and gymnastics, her volunteer activities followed them. Shari also volunteered at the World Masters Games, the Alberta Winter Games and the Western Canada Summer Games.

As Shari's children have grown she has become more involved in the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA), especially the Edmonton branch. In April of this year she was appointed Edmonton Branch Chair and in June was asked to be one of two co-chairs for the 2011 Canadian Payroll Association Annual Conference, which is being held in Edmonton in June. She is also a subject matter expert with the CPA, which means she helps review course material on request as well as assists at branch events or workshops.

In addition, Shari is membership co-chair of the Women's League group at her synagogue.

Gayle Burkholder and Angel Gayle Burkholder, Plan Operations

To Gayle Burkholder, volunteering is about making others feel good.

Gayle volunteers with the Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta, an organization that provides pet visitation programs to the community. Her alternative work schedule allows her to give her time to the PAWS For A Visit Program offered at the Jubilee Nursing Home.

Gayle brings her dog, Angel, to visit residents of the nursing home. She says seeing their reactions to Angel makes her feel good.

In 2009, Gayle was involved in the Edmonton YMCA Foundation's Youth Exchange Program which provides twelve youth varying in ages from 12 - 17 the opportunity to travel to Toronto. She saw volunteering over a week of her annual vacation time as an opportunity to travel and spend time with young people in her community. "I love kids and animals," laughs Gayle.

Both volunteer opportunities were suggested to Gayle by friends. She has since gotten involved with other organizations like Mighty Mutts (a small and toy breed dog play group), and started to volunteer to help organize events for dogs. She feels that volunteering gives her a sense of purpose, keeps her busy and provides her with self-confidence.

Rhea Doyle, Corporate Purchaser

To Rhea Doyle, fun and volunteering are one and the same.

Every year for the past three years, Rhea and many of her friends challenge each other to raise funds for one of the most common cancers among Canadian women: breast cancer. They don pink (pyjamas, hats, wigs, etc.) and join thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life to participate in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. Their reasons for participating may vary, but they all have the same goal.

"It helps fulfil me; it makes me feel good!" stated Rhea, when explaining her reasons for dedicating so much time towards volunteerism in her community. She is motivated by other reasons more close to heart: one being her grandmother, and the other her co-worker, whose lives have both been affected by breast cancer.

This year, Rhea personally raised $2000 in a co-worker's name. Her team raised nearly $5000, towards the national total of $26.5 million! This event is Canada's largest single day, volunteer-led fundraising event dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research, and education and awareness programs.

Rhea also fundraises for the Canadian Diabetes Association, and collects Canadian Tire money for the Edmonton Humane Society.

Rhea Doyle and Friends