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BC Summer Games bringing out city's volunteer spirit

Longtime volunteer Nelda McInnis can't get enough of giving back to the community

It was only fitting that Nelda McInnis’s first assignment as a volunteer for the 2022 BC Summer Games had her stationed at Foothills Elementary School, waiting to greet the athletes and get them checked into the dorm-style accommodations at the school.

McInnis’s three children went to that same school as kids and now she has two grandsons who are Foothills students. If only she had a dollar for every cookie she baked for a school fundraiser, she’d be living in the lap of luxury.

If she wasn’t born with the spirit of volunteerism McInnins certainly learned the value of giving back to the community at a young age. Her father, Cato Loveng, was a president of the provincial Eagles service club, and she remembers helping him and her mother out at fundraising bingos in Prince George when she was a teenager.

“I just want everybody who comes here to like it here, and I’ve felt that way my whole life,” said McInnis. “Without volunteers it just wouldn’t work.”

This is the second large-scale sporting event this year that’s drawn McInnis in as a volunteer and she’s been preparing for the Games since the first meeting last October. At the World Women’s Curling Championship in March she helped serve thirsty curling customers at The Patch. In June, she helped round up volunteers for Northern FanCon.

“I’ve lived in the community my whole life and I’ve been volunteering for everything when the kids were in school I did all the kids stuff and then I started doing the curling stuff mostly,” said McInnis. “It’s something I’ve always done and I like doing it. I love being busy. I don’t like work if you have the kind of job where you have to fill in time, it drives me crazy.”

Nelda and her husband Ian are avid curlers and they helped compile the curling statistics at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. For the BC Summer Games this week, Ian is a shuttle driver and he’s got the early shift Thursday and Friday, starting at 5:30 a.m.

After completing her 5 1/2-hour shift checking in athletes and directing them to their rooms in the school on Wednesday, McInnis will switch gears to food service at the College of New Caledonia. For the next four days of the Games, she will be working the 7-11 a.m. shift to make sandwiches for bag lunches to feed the nearly 3,000 athletes, coaches, managers, chaperones and officials gathered in the city for the biggest sports event of the year.

The swim team from the Kootenays (Zone 1) were first to arrive at Foothills Wednesday afternoon, and after handing them their laminated athlete credentials, McInnis directed them to the gym to pick up their sleeping mats. The athletes will be sleeping in classrooms on the floor, with the boys in one room and girls in another. Foothills is the home base for all 195 swimmers, coaches and officials for their overnight stays for the duration of the Games.

A volunteer force of nearly 2,000 people have signed up to help make the BC Games a success. Ann Marie Henderson was helping with the athlete check-in at the school, working alongside McInnis. Henderson will also switch to food service for the next four days, while her husband Steve continues to try to line up sponsorships with the Friends of the Games program he began volunteering for eight months ago.

Ann Marie retired from her job as a hospital social worker for Northern Health a few years ago. Her career background has been especially helpful at the Prince George Rotary Hospice, where she helps with grief counseling for the hospice staff. She got her first taste of volunteering for a sporting event at the 2019 World Para Nordic Ski Championships in 2019 and that was such a rewarding experience, it didn’t take any convincing for her to sign up for BC Games.

“I’m retired now and just need things to do,” said Henderson. “I’m very community-minded and was like, yeah. It’s energizing and rewarding.”

Henderson took it upon herself to use her washer/dryer at home to refurbish all 90 flags (Canada, B.C. and BC Games) that will be flown at the Games venues. The same flags had been used at other events and needed to be washed to get them clean and smooth before they were hung at all the BC Games sports venues. A commercial cleaning service had been lined up to do the job and could not get enough staff to take on the project.

If you would like to volunteer for the Games, it’s not too late. Just go to the Games website at www.bcgames.org.