Each year, the Volunteers Are Stars Awards happen in April, during National Volunteer Week. Except last year, when they didn't.
Everything was planned, everything was ready, and then everything stopped. COVID-19 forced us to postpone the event, for what we thought would be a month or two. Time stretched on, and reality set in: the 2020 Volunteers Are Stars Awards had to be cancelled.
A year later, things are improving - there's real, discernible light at the end of the tunnel - but we're still in the middle of a global pandemic. That means, once again, the Volunteers Are Stars Awards can't happen. At least, not in person.
We can, however, celebrate Richmond's volunteers virtually. And so, with your help, that's what we're going to do.
Above, we said that, with the arrival of COVID-19, everything stopped. That's not quite true. Volunteers never stopped. They kept serving their community, sometimes in new or modified virtual roles, but often times in person, on the front lines, supporting Richmond's most vulnerable residents face-to-face.
For their contributions during this unprecedented period, they deserve individual recognition, and our collective gratitude. That's where the Volunteers Are Stars Awards come in.
In February, we sent out a call for nominations, and the community responded. You nominated individuals and groups, young volunteers and longtime community leaders. With every submission, you helped show the diversity of Richmond's volunteer spirit - the many ways that people show up for their community, and for each other.
The list of nominees is by no means comprehensive, and it never could be. Volunteerism is deeply rooted in our community, happening in both formal and informal settings. There's no way we could capture it all. But in this year's nominees, we get a glimpse of the larger picture - of the passion, dedication, and kindness that kept Richmond strong during the pandemic, and will help our community thrive in the brighter days ahead.
Click the links below to read about the nominees in each category. The winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on April 21, during National Volunteer Week. A video of the ceremony will be posted here shortly after.
On April 21, during a virtual ceremony, we officially announced the recipients of the 2021 Volunteers Are Stars Awards. Nominated by the community, and selected by an impartial panel judges, the four winners - three individuals and one group - represent not only the impact of volunteerism, but its diversity.
The winners each support different causes, and their volunteer roles draw on different skills and talents. But in generously sharing their time, they also share a common purpose: to make Richmond a stronger, healthier, more inclusive community.
Their work is inspiring. Their contributions are immense. It's our honour to share their stories with you.
Often putting the community before himself, Jat Puri's dedication and optimism radiate outward, strengthening the many organizations he supports.
Having motivated and mentored Richmond’s youth, his ability to inspire accountability and trust in the next generation of volunteers is nothing short of remarkable.
As a mentor in the Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives Youth Now program, Jat has played a hands-on role in the learning and development of young leaders. Through his passion for volunteerism, he has helped highlight the importance of community involvement, and how we can all contribute to the betterment of Richmond.
Through his work on RCRG’s board of directors, Jat's supported key seniors’ services, including grocery shopping, friendly visiting, and peer counselling.
Most recently, he helped secure a $10,000 grant from the Vancouver Airport Authority’s Community Relations program, to help fund RCRG’s Seniors Community Support Services. It is thanks to passionate volunteers like him that Richmond’s most vulnerable residents have access to the resources and services they need.
Jat has also trained over 500 volunteers for YVR’s Green Coat program, many of whom are older adults. Most importantly, his care towards volunteers extends outside of the purview of his job, and into the community. It is not uncommon for him, outside of work, to do hospital visits and wellness checks for volunteers.
As a board member at the Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, Jat supports individuals and families living with AIDS, and promotes sexual education and awareness. With such a breadth of experience, he has played a part in dozens of community initiatives, supporting residents from all walks of life.
One thing is clear – Jat's lasting legacy is the inspiration he has given to so many youth and community members. He embodies what it means to be a volunteer, and the dedication it requires. As an ambassador for Richmond’s volunteer spirit, he is second to none.
During the pandemic, the compassion and care shown by RCRG's Shopping Volunteers has given hope to local seniors, assuring them that the Richmond community is always here to support them.
Serving clients who often suffer from lack of mobility, poor health, and a shrinking social network, this volunteer group has played a critical role in delivering groceries, keeping Richmond seniors - a key at-risk population - safe and connected to their community.
Known for their high level of customer service, RCRG's Shopping Volunteers have maintained the same quality of care despite newly established safety protocols and restrictions. With over 2,550 hours of service in the last year, they have given peace of mind to Richmond residents that their older family members have someone looking out for them.
With the onset of COVID-19, the demand for grocery shopping and delivery skyrocketed almost overnight, and these volunteers continued to exhibit patience and resilience, working to offer this much-needed service in the best and safest way possible.
RCRG's Shopping Volunteers have helped clients with long-term health problems maintain their independence and remain in their homes for as long as possible. The volunteers have been instrumental in not only providing food deliveries, but building social connections with clients who have been unable to see their families, offering, in the process, a sense of comfort and reassurance.
Since March 2020, these volunteers have completed a colossal 5,000 grocery orders - double the year before. Despite the hardship brought on by COVID-19, RCRG's Shopping Volunteers continued to bring relief to seniors in a year marred by lockdowns and quarantines - far from an easy feat.
This year, spurred by the global health crisis, more people than ever before have stepped up to help local seniors. There is no doubt that their tireless volunteer spirit has had a meaningful impact on the lives of Richmond’s most vulnerable residents, their caregivers, and their families.
Mental health: an issue that is often stigmatized and seldom discussed. After the year we’ve had, the need for an open, honest conversation around mental wellness has never been greater.
Rishika Selvakumar is leading the way, ensuring that those who need help can receive it without judgment.
Her campaigns with mental wellness organizations such as Anxiety Canada and the Canadian Mental Health Association have helped reduce stigma, raise awareness, and support those struggling with mental health issues.
Today, Rishika serves as a co-lead for the Anxiety Canada Youth Network, where she creates safe spaces for mental health discussions through the development of websites, podcasts, and apps.
Much of her work focuses on empowering our community’s youth. By organizing youth-centric mental health endeavours, Rishika has provided young people with the skills and tools to overcome their personal challenges and succeed on their own terms. Her ongoing efforts to engage and encourage youth have often given them the confidence to jumpstart their careers.
Rishika has done everything humanly possible at the front-line, management, and governance levels to push forward the critical conversation about mental wellness.
Her dream is to continue to have a positive impact in the field of mental health education. In her own words: “I hope to make mental health something people value enough to take care of and talk about, and create opportunities for people to care for themselves and the people around them.”
Rishika has also taken an active role in creating opportunities for youth through STEM and arts initiatives. She has shown incredible heart and determination through her constant work with the community and post-secondary organizations.
At just 19 years old, Rishika already has an impressive volunteer portfolio of over 9,000 hours and counting. Every day, she’s helping to build a brighter future – one where those who struggle with mental health feel seen, and safe enough to seek support.
Jean Garnett's comprehensive community involvement has impacted the lives of countless Richmond residents, from school children to seniors, as well as those engaged in arts and culture. Her ability to motivate and lead others for the good of the community remains unmatched.
Through her involvement with the Canadian Federation of University Women, Jean has advocated for women’s issues and greater fairness for all people. She also helped expand the organization’s scholarship programs for Richmond students, so those facing financial hurdles could pursue a post-secondary education.
Since 2003, she has helped lead Third Age Learning at Kwantlen, which provides social activity and ongoing learning opportunities for people over 50. As a pioneer for older adult education, Jean has re-engineered courses for online participation during the pandemic, whilst still maintaining the important social interactions so valued by students.
During nine years as a representative on Parent Advisory Councils, she provided guidance on better educating students, particularly those with learning challenges and disabilities. She also assisted school principals and councillors by mediating parental conflict, to ensure that each party understood their responsibilities.
Arts and culture are aspects of the community that often get overlooked. Fortunately, Jean has helped bring attention to the art and culture generated in Richmond, shining a spotlight on this thriving, vibrant area of community life.
As a passionate advocate for the arts, she served eight years as a board member with the Richmond Arts Coalition, where she supported artists and cultural organizations to develop a better profile in the community.
While fully dedicating herself to all these volunteer activities, Jean has gained recognition as an accomplished artist in her own right. To date, she has created over 200 intricate paper collages, and most recently, was featured by the Richmond Arts Coalition as February’s artist of the month.
Having served as an active leader for over 30 years, Jean has played a pivotal role shaping Richmond into a more inclusive community.
One of the benefits of holding a virtual ceremony is that we were able to record it, so those who couldn't attend can watch at a later date. Like, for example, now.
Granted, there are a few technical glitches with the recording, but there are many wonderful moments as well, from the winner speeches, to the enthusiastic greetings from elected officials, to the stirring rendition of O Canada by professional Sitarist Anju Bedi.
In a year filled with uncertainty and anxiety, the Volunteers Are Stars Awards felt vital and necessary - a way to showcase Richmond's strong and enduring community spirit. We hope you enjoy the show.
Our sincere thanks to The Dupuis Langen Group for serving as Presenting Sponsor of the 2021 Volunteers Are Stars Awards. The company has a long history of supporting and celebrating local volunteerism, and we're grateful for their generosity and leadership in helping us recognize the many brilliant volunteers who contributed to our community this past year.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of our Media Sponsor, the Richmond News. The paper is a friend of our organization, and a partner in promoting and encouraging volunteerism. Look for extensive Volunteers Are Stars coverage - both print and digital - during National Volunteer Week, April 18 - 24.
A little time may have passed, but their contributions remain as meaningful as ever. Read about the many brilliant winners and nominees from previous editions of Volunteers Are Stars.