January 20, 2019

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Opinion

Helpful people are happy people: volunteer

Dabee has volunteered for 24 organizations

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Maples Community Centre president Derek Dabee is a proponent of community involvement.</p></p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Maples Community Centre president Derek Dabee is a proponent of community involvement.

Want to know the key to happiness? Ask Derek Dabee.

“If you look at happy people, they’re also helpful people,” he says.

The 64-year-old Maples resident should know. Over the past 35 years, he has volunteered with 24 different organizations.

A passionate cricket and tennis player, a number of Dabee’s volunteer commitments include community centres that support youth involvement in sports.

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Want to know the key to happiness? Ask Derek Dabee.

"If you look at happy people, they’re also helpful people," he says.

The 64-year-old Maples resident should know. Over the past 35 years, he has volunteered with 24 different organizations.

A passionate cricket and tennis player, a number of Dabee’s volunteer commitments include community centres that support youth involvement in sports.

By his count, Dabee has assisted in repairing or building two cricket pitches, two baseball diamonds, eight hockey rinks, 10 basketball courts and 18 tennis courts.

"Be a good neighbour and be helpful," he says. "That’s my mantra."

Born and raised in Guyana, a Caribbean country on the northern mainland of South America, Dabee’s outlook on life was heavily influenced by his mother, Tara.

Dabee describes his mother, a former sewing teacher, as a distinguished leader and dedicated volunteer at her temple and all community events.

"She could never say no to getting involved," he says. "She was the go-to lady."

Thanks to his mother’s influence, Dabee began volunteering as a teenager at school events and as president of his school’s student council.

He moved to Winnipeg when he was 19 to study agriculture at the University of Manitoba.

Eventually, his focus shifted and he graduated with a degree in sociology.

Afterward, he worked for the provincial government until 2012.

Along the way, Dabee learned of Canada’s rich tradition of volunteerism. This inspired him to get involved in the community.

Dabee has volunteered in each of the three Winnipeg neighbourhoods he has lived in.

He currently volunteers at the Maples Community Centre, where he is board president, as well as with the Philippine Basketball Association Winnipeg and the Garden City Nets tennis club.

In the past, Dabee volunteered for 16 years at the Burton Cummings Community Centre, where he was the founding president.

He used to volunteer with the Caribbean Canada Heart Health Education, a non-profit that promotes cardiovascular health in Canada and internationally.

Other past volunteer commitments include the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre, Folklorama, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Manitoba Cricket Association and the Council of Caribbean Organizations of Manitoba.

"For me, volunteering is a lifestyle," Dabee says. "It’s an excellent way to contribute to our communities, and the rewards are priceless."

His wife, Sandy, is understanding and supportive of his many endeavours.

"She is OK with my community involvements, as long as I complete my household chores," he says with a laugh.

When he isn’t working as a school board trustee in the Seven Oaks School Division or volunteering, Dabee enjoys playing sports, reading and attending community events.

He also spends time with his mother, who moved to Winnipeg in 1980 and will celebrate her 94th birthday next month.

Dabee is thankful for the hundreds of volunteers he has been able to work alongside over the past 35 years, and encourages everyone to consider getting involved with their local community centre.

"The pleasure and the satisfaction of volunteering is tremendous," he says.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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