April 19, 2019

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Opinion

Proving laughter is the best medicine

Volunteers find personal benefits in helping out at resource centre

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>France Croteau (from left), Beverley Martens with her bird, Angel, and Lorrie Richen volunteer their time at NorWest, a centre offering resources related to employment and counselling.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

France Croteau (from left), Beverley Martens with her bird, Angel, and Lorrie Richen volunteer their time at NorWest, a centre offering resources related to employment and counselling.

When France Croteau says that she and her friends, Beverley Martens and Lorrie Richen, are “part of the family” at the resource centre where they volunteer, she means it.

Sitting around a table at the back of NorWest on Alexander, a resource centre run by NorWest Co-op Community Health, the three women joke around and tease each other, just like close family members often do.

Anyone who walks through the door is quickly invited to share in the fun.

“I enjoy meeting the new people, and I just have to try and make them laugh,” Martens says. “It’s just who I am. I just walk through the door and the next thing you know, everybody’s laughing.”

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When France Croteau says that she and her friends, Beverley Martens and Lorrie Richen, are "part of the family" at the resource centre where they volunteer, she means it.

Sitting around a table at the back of NorWest on Alexander, a resource centre run by NorWest Co-op Community Health, the three women joke around and tease each other, just like close family members often do.

Anyone who walks through the door is quickly invited to share in the fun.

"I enjoy meeting the new people, and I just have to try and make them laugh," Martens says. "It’s just who I am. I just walk through the door and the next thing you know, everybody’s laughing."

The centre offers resources related to employment and counselling, and programming that supports NorWest’s mission to engage community members in co-operative health and wellness.

Martens, Richen and Croteau each visited it before becoming volunteers, and each has helped shape what the centre offers.

Martens helps with the fruit and veggie mart, which offers community members the opportunity to buy produce at a low price.

She also started the artist of the week program. Each week, someone from the resource centre displays art they have made and shares their artistic process with the group.

Richen is an active member of the centre’s Hans Kai group, a participant-led program that encourages people to take control of their health. She assists with the centre’s bingo game once a month, and she started a knitting and crocheting group.

Croteau leads the drumming and beadwork groups. Both are important expressions of her Métis heritage.

"I really enjoy doing what I do, giving back to the community," Croteau says. "Giving back to the community is the most important thing in my life."

For Richen, the social aspect of volunteering at the centre is a draw. "It gets me out of the house," she says.

Martens, who is accompanied by her service animal, a green-cheeked conure (parrot) named Angel, appreciates being involved because it improves her mental health.

"I started volunteering to help me get over my social phobia," she says. "If there’s too many people in a room, I’ll panic, especially if I don’t have (Angel)."

Since she began volunteering, Martens has noticed an improvement.

"Volunteering here has given me new courage around people," she says. "I feel stronger, braver and more creative at the same time."

"It definitely makes me happy," she adds. "Through (coming) here, I have made new, wonderful friends."

Having people such as Croteau, Martens and Richen involved at the centre is exciting, says Danae Reimer, a social worker with NorWest.

"It gives them an opportunity to share their interests and their gifts," Reimer says.

"It’s really neat to see them taking ownership of the space and being leaders."

NorWest Co-op Community Health has a number of resource centres throughout the community that offer a variety of programs. Anyone interested in getting involved can visit ­norwestcoop.ca/get-involved for details.

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

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History

Updated on Monday, March 25, 2019 at 7:40 AM CDT: Byline fixed

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