Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Prairie North Regional Health Authority and it’s Michelle Willick’s job to make sure they’re both in place and recognized for the work they do. Recently, Michelle spoke with Northern Pride about her career, family and love for art.

Q: What is your role with the Prairie North Regional Health Authority?
A: Essentially, it’s to recruit volunteers, but there’s much more to it than that. Officially, I’m Prairie North’s coordinator of volunteer and spiritual services, a role that consists of program planning, recruitment, orientation, ongoing training and appreciation. The program promotes staff/volunteer relationships, awareness of volunteerism and awareness of the broad scope of volunteer opportunities.

Q: There must be a variety of different ways in which volunteers help out.
A: Yes, volunteers are active in a number of ways here at the hospital and at Northland Pioneers Lodge. We have individual volunteers who offer visitations, help with our Meals on Wheels program, the greeter program and with unit assistance. Group volunteer opportunities are anything that involves schools, service organizations, corporations or businesses, and then, of course, there is the ministerial and spiritual services laity. Getting back to my role at Prairie North, it’s my job to facilitate all of these groups and individuals when it comes to both recruitment and retention.

Q: How long have you served in this position?
A: It’s been more than two-and-a-half years now.

Q: Is it easy to find people who are willing to step forward and volunteer?
A: Actually, it’s very challenging to entice interest in volunteerism, but, on the other hand, it’s also very rewarding. It’s very fulfilling when you can place individuals in areas where they can really shine.

Q: Why is it so difficult to find people who want to help?
A: That’s an interesting question. I believe society has changed. The older generation had a very servant attitude in terms of helping their neighbours and helping their community. You don’t see that same “help your brother” attitude reflected in the younger generation. Of course we still do get young people helping out in a variety of volunteer opportunities, but the majority of our volunteers do tend to be seniors. It’s simply that society’s perspective about helping your fellow man has changed.

Q: This must not bode well for the future.
A: That’s where my job comes in with regard to educating people about the importance of volunteerism and how valuable and rewarding it is. Our best recruiters are the volunteers themselves, the people who already find what they do so satisfying. I have a quote on my office wall that reads, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I truly believe that, and feel the best remedy if you are feeling low is to go help someone less fortunate than yourself. It’s the best way to get your eyes off yourself. And, of course, there’s the old adage, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Q: How many volunteers does Prairie North currently have?
A: Locally, on a monthly basis, at least 50 in all the various volunteer areas.

Q: Why is volunteering so important when it comes to day-to-day activity at the health region?
A: Volunteers enhance the services already available at PNRHA, and each volunteer brings his or her own unique gifts, skills and talents to what they do. They’re a huge part of the services we offer to our patients and clients – they always go over and above.

Q: And their contributions don’t go unrecognized, do they?
A: Absolutely not. Recently, we held our annual volunteer appreciation evening at the Alliance Church in Meadow Lake. That event exceeded my expectations and I was exceedingly happy with the turnout. That night was for the volunteers and was only a small way for us to show the appreciation we have for all they do and for the hundreds of hours they selflessly give. No volunteer works for any sort of monetary gain. They do it because they want to help and to serve others, and that is their reward – to be able to help others. That’s something I’ve been told by so many of our volunteers at one time or another.

Q: Have you ever volunteered?
A: Yes, I’ve worked with various arts programs, as well as with a lot of youth programming and elders’ programs.

Q: Is that what guided you to your current role?
A: What guided me to this role was the chance to work with people and with the community at large. It’s a public relations type of position.

Q: What have you learned most from your time on the job?
A: What never ceases to amaze me is the heart attitude of the volunteers. I jokingly refer to them as the saints of Meadow Lake because they have what I call a true servant’s heart. My challenge is being able to express how much that means to me, the the hospital, the lodge and to Prairie North as a whole. They truly are appreciated.

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m originally from Strathmore, AB, but I’ve lived in Meadow Lake for more than 20 years.

Q: What did you do before coming on-board at PNRHA?
A: I worked in advertising at the local radio station, as well as in the newspaper industry for about 10 years. I also worked as a community school coordinator for a number of years. I have a Communication Arts diploma, and have found the jobs I’ve held over the years are all very much the same. My background in communications comes in handy now because I’m always reaching out to and recruiting volunteers – basically selling what it is volunteering has to offer. There are a lot of parallels.

Q: Outside of work, do you have any other interests?
A: I’m involved with the local churches through Bible studies and care groups, I’m a firm supporter of the quest for the cure when it comes to cancer and I’m also an avid artist. I think a fair amount of people probably know me for my art. Spirituality and art are my two biggest passions in life.

Q: When did you develop an interest in art?
A: I’ve always liked art, but eventually began to take it a lot more seriously. I started selling my work and making limited edition prints around 1995. My goal isn’t to become famous, I just enjoy the process of expressing my creativity.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
A: That’s where the spirituality comes in. I’m a Christian and God is the one who inspires and empowers.

Q: Do you have any other pastimes?
A: I like spending time with my husband and family. My husband’s name is Allen and I have three wonderful and extremely talented stepchildren. Jennifer is 25, Keeley is 16 and Jake is 13.

Q: Does the family have any plans for the summer?
A: We’ll be going camping – swimming, fishing, boating, all of those fun summer activities Saskatchewan folk love to do.

Q: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
A: I’d like to see myself semiretired. Spirituality, ministry and the arts are all very important to me, so anything that would offer me the freedom to work in these areas would be ideal. As you get older, you tend to have more freedom to do the things you love to do.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. There’s a lot of wisdom we gain throughout our lives and my greatest goal personally is to be a reflection and an expression of God’s love. I haven’t obtained that yet, but I’m a work in progress as, hopefully, we all are. There’s hope, faith and love in this world, but the greatest of these is love.