Juanita Valentine (r) has been volunteering at LGH for 55 years, most recently in the gift shop alongside Maureen McIntosh. Juanita and many other staff and volunteers will be celebrated today at the annual VCH North Shore Long Service Awards.

Volunteer celebrates 55 years of giving back to Lions Gate Hospital

North Shore resident Juanita Valentine has travelled a lot of kilometres in her lifetime.

And, while a healthy number of those kilometres came from travelling to more than 50 countries over her life, a surprising number have come locally, making the four-km journey from her home in Lynn Valley to Lions Gate Hospital.

How can those eight kms add up you might ask?

By making that trip thousands of times over 55 years as an LGH volunteer.

Early beginnings on the North Shore

Juanita’s time as a member of the Auxiliary to LGH started when high school friend Margery Jacklin – herself a long-time volunteer at LGH who passed away several years ago – invited her out to a meeting. Since that first meeting, LGH Volunteer Manager Rocio Andrews estimates that Juanita has put in more than 7, 400 volunteer hours, primarily in the Gift Shop.

“I started on the desk first,” Juanita recalls. “Back then we used to take the flowers up to the patient rooms when people ordered them.”

One of the reasons for her long-standing commitment to LGH is the positive effect the nurses, physicians and other care staff have had on her family’s life.

“I’ve been tied to our North Shore hospital since I was 4 – 5 years old,” Juanita explains. “The first time I came in (to what was North Van. General Hospital at the time) was because my mom was very ill. We almost lost her at that time.”

But the good care she received kept her mom around for a long healthy life in Lynn Valley, something that Juanita still appreciates.

While Juanita is a firm believer in the capabilities of LGH’s medical professionals, she’s more than happy that she’s only had to receive medical attention once over the years. “I broke a hip line dancing,” she chuckles.

Giving across her community

LGH isn’t the only not-for-profit that Juanita wholeheartedly supports. She’s a long-time supporter of the Pacific Dog Assistance Society (PADS), giving freely of her time to help that organization make the difference they do for their clients. She also was a long-time volunteer for the Variety Club, something she’s had to give up along the way.

A life full of life

Despite a long career as a school teacher and time spent caring for family, Juanita has always done her best to live life to the fullest. Volunteering has been part of a life that also included travelling to countries like China, India and Australia as well as some daredevil-type activities like hang-gliding, skydiving (in her mid-80s) and taking New Year’s Day dips in Deep Cove four or five times.

Her goal for when she makes it to 100 years old? “Another trip skydiving,” she says matter-of-factly.

As the head of LGH’s volunteers Rocio feels lucky to be able to work with dedicated, interesting people like Juanita. “She’s so dedicated and always willing to help anybody that walks through the Gift Shop doors,” explains Rocio. “And her smile is contagious.”

Honouring staff, physicians and volunteers today

All North Shore staff are invited to the Long Service Awards today (Thursday, March 15) at 4:30 pm at the HOpe Centre to honour VCH staff as well as the many volunteers who help make LGH the great place it is.