The 2023 Volunteers Are Stars Awards, presented by RCRG, took place April 19, at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel.
After being cancelled in 2020, due to the pandemic, and then held virtually the next two years, the event made a triumphant in-person return, and proved unequivocally that Richmond's volunteer spirit shines brighter when we celebrate together!
We'd like to thank everyone who made the event possible, including our partners and sponsors, and the many individuals and organizations who nominated star volunteers.
Most of all, one last time, we offer a heartfelt congratulations both to the award recipients and to all of this year's nominees. Your volunteer contributions have made Richmond a more vibrant, resilient, and welcoming community. We're grateful for your efforts, and inspired by your passion, dedication, and selflessness.
Below, you'll find detailed descriptions of the contributions and accomplishments of this year's four award recipients. Scroll down further for a complete list of nominees, and learn more about them by clicking the corresponding Facebook posts.
To start, though, we have a video! Shot and edited by our friends at Vancouver Television, it condenses the two-hour event into 11 lively minutes, capturing the energy of the evening, along with thoughts and reflections from some of the nominees. After watching, you can also check out the Volunteers Are Stars photo album!
The Star of Richmond Award, sponsored by The Dupuis Langen Group, recognizes volunteers who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the Richmond community.
Susan Ness has been described as an innovative leader, organizer, and event planner, with a passion for exceeding expectations.
Her background is in marketing and communications, but her skills and talents are broad and diverse. So, too, are her interests.
She is, for example, a dedicated supporter of the local arts sector. From 2010 to 2016, she served on Gateway Theatre’s Board of Directors, including three years as Chair.
In 2018, she joined the Board of the Community Arts Council of Richmond, and served as President from 2019 through 2022. During her tenure, she helped raise the organization’s profile, working with her fellow Board Members to create opportunities for all citizens to participate in, and benefit from, the arts.
Susan is equally active in the business sector. Since 2006, she’s been a member of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, where she’s chaired the Business Excellence Awards Task Force, and volunteered as part of the Chamber’s Board Nominating Committee, Golf Tournament Task Force, and Women’s Leadership Circle.
Shaena Furlong, the Chamber’s President & CEO, says that Susan “brings thoughtfulness, creativity, and generosity to everything she does,” and that, as a leader, she “ensures there is always space for meaningful contributions from her fellow volunteers.”
Perhaps more than anything, Susan is an engaged member of the community, with an interest in helping wherever, and however, she can. In 2015, she joined the Rotary Club of Richmond Sunrise, whose motto, fittingly, is “Service Above Self.” She enjoys the sense of fellowship, and the opportunity to fund and participate in worthwhile projects, both locally and abroad.
Most recently, Susan helped the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre re-imagine its annual fundraising event. Held on March 4, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the event featured a silent auction, live music, and artwork from emerging women artists. It was a resounding success, marking yet another instance where Susan brought a local organization to new heights.
Surely, it won’t be the last.
The Shooting Star Award, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Richmond Sunrise, recognizes the service and achievements of youth volunteers throughout the Richmond community.
What were you doing at nine years old? Ava Koldenhof was getting ready to launch her own fundraising campaign – one that, over the next six years, would generate $10,000 for local charities. But let’s start at the beginning.
At the heart of the campaign is a relationship, between Ava and her grandmother. Together, they began designing, making, and selling their own jewelry. They called the initiative Ava’s Angels, and all proceeds would be donated to charity.
The first $1,000 gift went to the Richmond Christmas Fund. For Ava, it was a relatable cause: she wanted to help children less fortunate than her experience the magic of a holiday celebration. Her family had also sponsored Christmas Fund families, so even at a young age, she understood the program’s impact.
More donations followed – to the Make a Wish Foundation, Richmond Food Bank, Rick Hansen Foundation, and other organizations.
At the start of the campaign, she had set a goal of raising $10,000, and in 2021, at the age of 15, she was nearly there. She decided to bring everything full circle, choosing the Christmas Fund as the recipient of her final $1,000 donation.
She’s continued her involvement with the program, now serving as the Christmas Fund’s Youth Ambassador, a role in which she encourages other young people to volunteer, whether with the Christmas Fund or other community causes.
She’s also an avid volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada and, at school, serves on student council.
The thing about community service is that you don’t need permission. If you want to get involved and make a difference, you can, at any age. Ava is proof. What started as a hobby became an outlet to create meaningful and lasting change in her community. Ava’s Angels will continue to soar as an inspiring example of youth leadership and impact.
The Constellation Award, sponsored by McDonald’s, recognizes the contributions of volunteer groups throughout the Richmond community.
Today, a 123-year-old building, formerly the Steveston Methodist Church, is home to the Richmond Hospital/Healthcare Auxiliary Thrift Shop. It’s operated entirely by volunteers, who, together, are the winners of this year’s Constellation Award.
In all, the thrift shop has 103 volunteers, ranging in age from 16 to 92. Their tasks include sorting donations, pricing and displaying merchandise, serving customers, answering phones, and doing minor repairs.
The store, itself, has become a unique and caring community, where every volunteer feels a sense of belonging. Retirees work alongside students, all contributing their skills and expertise to keep the store running – and business booming – six days a week.
The thrift shop’s mission is to enhance local healthcare, with proceeds used to purchase medical equipment and fund patient services at Richmond Hospital, Minoru Residence, and Richmond Lions Manor.
The impact of the store’s fundraising efforts can be seen throughout Richmond’s healthcare system, from cancer screening and blood testing equipment; to speech, music, and recreational therapy programs; to a short-stay pediatric unit. Thousands of patients benefit thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, and their humble but mighty thrift shop.
The store is also an important resource for community members more generally. Volunteers intentionally keep prices low, ensuring that all customers, regardless of socio-economic status, can afford items like gently used clothing, housewares, toys, tools, and more. Often, the volunteers go a step further, hand-selecting articles of high-quality clothing, and then re-donating them to vulnerable residents and individuals experiencing homelessness.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the brick-and-mortar retail sector, and the thrift shop was no exception. Temporary closures and residual fears around public interactions led to a dramatic drop in sales and volunteer numbers.
During the past two years, however, the store has bounced back, and is now stronger than ever. The resurgence, of course, was led by volunteers, who, while running a thrift store, have created a community treasure.
The Nova Star Award, sponsored by Trinity Western University, recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of individual volunteers across the Richmond community.
Hold on a second. We just need to put on our sunglasses. You might want to do the same, because this year's Volunteers Are Stars nominees - over 30 in all - shine so brightly!
Our 2023 nominees prove that community service comes in many forms, and has many sources of inspiration. In each nominee's case, what they do and why they do it are key parts of their story. Our favourite part, however - which we're honoured to share with you - is their impact.
Leading up to the Volunteers Are Stars Awards, on April 19, we'll be highlighting each nominee on our Facebook page. When a new post is shared, we'll include a link next to the nominee's name, below, so you can view the post, like it, share it, and comment on how the nominee has impacted your life, your organization, or the community as a whole.
Now, onto the nominees...
Recognizing Outstanding Leadership Volunteers
Lillian Callegari (Facebook Post)
Mary Derksen (Facebook Post)
Susan Ness (Facebook Post)
Recognizing Outstanding Youth Volunteers
Megan Chan (Facebook Post)
Serena Chin (Facebook Post)
Ava Koldenhof (Facebook Post)
Christopher Mok (Facebook Post)
Eden Wu (Facebook Post)
Micah Wu (Facebook Post)
Recognizing Outstanding Volunteer Groups
A Not So Silent Night Committee (Facebook Post)
Richmond Advocacy & Support Committee (Facebook Post)
Richmond Hospital/Healthcare Auxiliary Thrift Shop (Facebook Post)
Recognizing Outstanding Individual Volunteers
Leon Chew (Facebook Post)
Don Danyluk (Facebook Post)
Frank Fowlie (Facebook Post)
Raymond Goh (Facebook Post)
Patricia Gustafson (Facebook Post)
Jackie Lee (Facebook Post)
Marcus Narsaiya (Facebook Post)
Charles Pinto (Facebook Post)
John Read (Facebook Post)
Linda Shirley (Facebook Post)
Erika Stewart (Facebook Post)
Ron Toffolo (Facebook Post)
Grace Turner (Facebook Post)
Ray Wang (Facebook Post)
David Wong (Facebook Post)
Rosemary Yee (Facebook Post)
Jasmine Yip (Facebook Post)
Claire Zhang (Facebook Post)
Melissa Zhang (Facebook Post)
RCRG organizes the Volunteers Are Stars Awards, but we have a lot of help. The event is made possible by a generous group of sponsors. When it comes to celebrating Richmond's volunteer spirit, they're just as passionate as we are, and we gratefully acknowledge their support.
|STAR OF RICHMOND AWARD
|NOVA STAR AWARD
|SHOOTING STAR AWARD
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.