About a couple of Squamish volunteers

Longtime residents Anne and Chris French reflect on giving back

Volunteers built this town and continue to create its sense of community. They tirelessly give of their time and talents to help out various Squamish events and organizations.
Anne and Chris French are two of many local volunteers who make this place better. The couple has lived in Squamish for five decades.
The Chief sat down with the duo in their comfy and cozy Highlands home for a chat about the various ways they give back and why they do it.
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

Q: When did you first start volunteering?
A: ANNE: Chris was on the volunteer fire department, so I did behind the scenes stuff for them. Their very first Easter bunny, I made the suit. And when they had firefighters balls a lot of the wives — and some of the husbands — decorated the hall. That is really where I started. Then I did Boy Scouts of Canada [now Scouts Canada] for a few years starting in about 1978. Later, I volunteered at the kids’ schools. I also volunteered with the Vancouver Sun Run training clinics out of the rec centre for 10 years —  also with the Squamish Triathlon and Test of Metal too.
A: CHRIS: I started when I was single. There were a whole bunch of us. We started a car club here in about 1967.
I also volunteered with Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival off and on. I was on the fire department as a volunteer for 30 years.

Q:  Why is there such a strong dedication to volunteering in your family?
A: ANNE: Chris came from a very small community [on Salt Spring Island], and his parents were very much involved, whereas my family was not, so I think I got it from him.
A: CHRIS: It was something different to do than your daily routine. When I came to Squamish, there were 3,000 people. There was always something going on. You always run into somebody who knows somebody who is looking for some help with whatever. I refereed and helped coach hockey and kids’ ball, the fire fighter’s team, and women’s softball. I still help with the Between Shifts Theatre sets. I have been with them for about 15 performances. When the Howe Sound Players was active, I did the sound production for about five years. Anne also helped with the sets for Howe Sound Players.
For me, thinking of the fire department, I worked my way up, and I always felt I had something to give in leading a group. You are helping people do something that they want to do that they wouldn’t do if somebody didn’t organize it. Anne is the same.

Q: Do you have any advice for organizations about how to treat volunteers?
A: CHRIS: The majority of people won’t volunteer, regardless. The biggest thing is if you know the person well enough, you can understand what they are interested in.  Also, from my experience with Scouts and the fire department, there was always ongoing training provided, with different aspects — whether it was psychology, how to deal with people or specific training to the job you are volunteering for.
One thing that stuck with me is that the mind will only absorb what the butt can endure. The longer you have to sit, the less concentration you are going to have to learn. Also, we were always given the idea that you don’t tell people what to do, you ask them if they would like to do it. I think you have to be able to read people and know if it is going to work or it isn’t.

Q: What was your most favourite volunteering experience, Anne?
A: I think the Sun Run clinics. Just the reward of seeing people succeeding.

Q: This isn’t actually a volunteer thing you did, but I understand Anne that you raised half of Squamish with your in-home daycare?
A: I did that for about 30 years in total. When our children were young and when the grandchildren came along.
When our kids were young, I wanted to be home with the children, so it was a no-brainer. The public health nurse lived across the street, and she needed daycare, you know? It was all the neighbourhood kids. I did that for 15 years.
Then one day our middle son came home from school and asked if he would have to come home to little kids every day. I knew it was time to stop.
Then when our son John announced his first child was on the way I knew what I was going to be doing. I didn’t want to spoil the grandkids, so the daycare happened again.
Eventually, I cared for the children of the children I had looked after. That is how it worked.
I ran it for another 15 years. Then Chris retired and he wanted time with just me. So, it was time to close it down.

Q: With all those kids who came through and raising your own, what don’t people realize about raising children?
A: I don’t know. It didn’t matter whose children they were, I loved them. They so deserve that.
Treat children with respect not just as kids, absolutely.
We had fantastic children and fantastic parents — just lovely people. It was great. You get very attached to other people’s children.

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