Community Papers

Making a difference: Filling gaps with a smile

Jan Betts,  volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society, surrounded by her family, including husband Gerry, son Cameron and Bailey the lab. - Mark Brett/Western News
Jan Betts, volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society, surrounded by her family, including husband Gerry, son Cameron and Bailey the lab.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

By its very nature, the Canadian Cancer Society is bound to break some of its volunteers’ hearts.

“People will come in and donate in honour of somebody, in memory of somebody, and that’s a sad time,” said Jan Betts, a volunteer at the society’s Penticton community office.

More often, however, there are success stories to share, such as those involving chemotherapy patients who have borrowed wigs through the society’s loan program and gone on to recover their health.

“The people who have used that and survived and thank us, that’s terrific,” said Betts.

She retired in December 2012 after a 35-year career as a lab technician at Penticton Regional Hospital, and a few months later signed on with the Canadian Cancer Society after reading a letter in a local newspaper about the organization’s need for help.

Betts started out with a four-hour shift once a week “working the desk” at the society office, where she handled administrative duties like accepting donations and answering clients’ questions.

“We’ll provide whatever information we have, and if they have other questions, more detailed, we refer them,” she explained.

Since then, she has taken on additional duties as needed, like becoming the treasurer for the Penticton community office. Also this year, the family business, Betts Electric, will serve as the honourary chair of the Relay For Life, coming up on June 14.

Betts’s willingness to pinch hit has impressed Jacqueline Salvino, volunteer engagement co-ordinator for the society’s B.C. and Yukon Division.

“She really hit the ground running,” Salvino said of Betts.

“Anywhere we need a hand that she has the skills to do she jumps right in, whether it’s sitting at the front desk and taking client phone calls, whether it’s attending an event and being the face of the society in the community, to helping us plan a volunteer conference that was held in Penticton last September.”

The work has also been rewarding.

“The people are great. The other volunteers are very, very nice to work with and be part of. It’s a great group and it’s a great cause,” said Betts, who suggested anyone interested in volunteering first take a personal inventory.

“Choose something that speaks to you, something you’re interested in,” she said.

Sunday marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week in Canada and Salvino said her group is still “desperately” in need of help.

“What we’re looking for in volunteers is just someone who wants to change the face of cancer forever,” she said, adding that even her five-year-old daughter has been able to help out. “Really, it’s anyone who has a stake in the fight against cancer and has a few hours that they can spare.”

To sign up, visit or call 1-800-403-8222.

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