Jada Lee could have been home relaxing or out and about Tuesday morning, enjoying her week's vacation from her job as a insurance services rep at the Envision Financial branch in Aldergrove.
Instead, she toiled away at Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op.
Lee was among the 28 Envision employees - 16 on Tuesday morning, 12 more during the afternoon - who tended to the gardens, weeded, and prepped plants for the winter as part of Envision's sixth annual community volunteer service week.
From Oct. 1-5, more than 150 Envision employees traded time at the office for the opportunity to make a difference in their community.
Situated on a six acres of land just west of 200th Street, Maples hosts forests, salmon habitat, riparian areas, community gardens, and a greenhouse, and has close to 100 members, most of whom lease a community garden plot.
Recently there's been special emphasis on the inclusion of adults with developmental disabilities through a partnership with the Langley Association for Community Living.
Plans are in the works for co-housing for palliative care, complex care, and 55-plus adult living to surround Maples. Residents can work there, live there, and enjoy their surroundings, according to Bruce Van Garderen, Maples' co-founder, treasurer, groundskeeper, and supervisor.
Van Garderen welcomed the assistance from the band of Envision helpers.
"At the moment, we are a non-profit co-op, so we really depend on volunteering people like those from Envision to come in and help us out, weeding and cleaning," he said. "This is an awesome help. They came out last year and I'm glad to see them again this year."
Lee is one of those helpers, and she's a veteran of the Envision Days of Caring project. This marks her sixth year of involvement.
"I've been with Envision for 12 [years] so ever since it started I've tried to be involved," Lee said.
With free time on her hands this week, Lee opted to dedicate as many hours as she could to the cause.
On Monday, she worked at the Salvation Army soup kitchen in Chilliwack and this Friday, she'll help clear a paddock at the SAINTS animal rescue shelter in Mission.
Lee is familiar with volunteering, having donated countless hours as a Brownie leader in her hometown of Abbotsford.
"I don't mind hard work," Lee said. "It feels good to come out and donate my time to my community."
She wasn't out of her element at Maples. Lee has a small garden at home, but the garden co-op is home to a much larger body of work.
"It's nice to come out and work with the dirt," Lee said.
A few feet away, Laurie Barnhart yanked weeds and then loaded them into a nearby wheelbarrow.
Her typical work day involves getting Envision staff "up and running on courses and training, and supporting any training initiatives that we are working on," Barnhart said.
Barnhart isn't a gardener but her husband is - she says her spouse is very proud of her for volunteering to get her gardening gloves dirty.
Her morning task was straightforward.
"Weeding_ a lot of weeding," she said with a chuckle. "A lot of weeding and pulling and hard work, and it's all good. It's all fun, for sure."
A Langley resident, Barnhart enjoyed helping out in her own backyard.
"It's a great thing to support different areas of the community," Barnhart.
Barnhart returns to her regular day job on Wednesday, "after I've showered," she said.
Envision president Shelley Besse said that with the everyday demands of work and family life, finding time to volunteer in the community can be anything but simple.
"Our community volunteer service week gives staff the opportunity to volunteer during work hours, providing them with insight into the social issues in our local communities and a chance to give back," Besse said.
This year's community volunteer service week involves 13 unique projects throughout the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley. Volunteers at all of the projects - which locally includes Maples, the Langley Senior Resource Society and the Gateway of Hope in Langley - will be volunteering their time in a number of ways including painting buildings, preparing meals, and sorting and distributing food at community food banks.
This Thursday, the Envision employees are at the Langley seniors' centre, helping out with United Way luncheon service and clean up.
The following day, Friday, Oct. 5, they were at the Gateway of Hope shelter helping with service and clean up of Gateway's Thanksgiving lunch meal. Opened in November, 2009, Gateway offers 30 emergency shelter beds, social service programming and a hot meal program which delivers more than 150 meals each day.
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