Return to Newsroom

National Volunteer Week 2022 - Empathy In Action

Every year during National Volunteer Week, we like to recognize the efforts our employees make in the communities where they live and work. The theme of National Volunteer Week this year is Empathy in Action - affirming the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy. We are proud to celebrate our employees for their dedication to creating happy & healthy communities for generations to come. 

Kim Powell has been involved with the PALS program since its inception - 21 years ago! She works with the children at Prince Charles School, providing mentorship and reading to them (including virtually during the pandemic). "I love the innocence of children and being able to impart some knowledge and happiness to their day. I have a huge love of reading and want to show that to the kids. They seem to enjoy it as much as I do. I love being able to donate my time to “our” neighbourhood school," says Kim about why she has been involved in the program for so long. "I find it so rewarding that such a small amount of my time is required to make such a big impact on so many kids. I am hoping that the kids develop a love of books and that this, in turn, helps them have a love of learning. Every bit helps." 


For the last eight years, Sarah Winchester has made a commitment to volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. A member of our Atlantic Towing team, she was awarded the Volunteer of the Year and Judge Tom Bell awards in 2020 for her commitment and involvement in the program. "It's been a joy to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters. It has had a huge impact on my life in the best way possible and we've seen many positive impacts for my little sister," says Sarah.


Jamie Tolan, Production & Facilities Manager with our team at Plasticraft, has been volunteering with the PALS En Route to Success program since last summer. "I like being a part of a program that helps build our community and helps our future generations build the skills they need to be successful. I enjoy being a part of a team that fosters positive learning opportunities and works towards making impactful experiences for the participants," says Jamie about why he got involved with the program. "I support the students in their development in a multiple of areas throughout the business to ensure the students are given opportunities to discover and learn new skills and trades within our industry."


Kim Holmes, of our Maine Northern Railway team, is the proud president of the Ashland Area Parent Teacher Organization. She is also on the organizing committee for the Annual Holiday Shop, "I take a vacation week each December so I can oversee this event. It's an incredible week," says Kim about her love for this special tradition. "I have been volunteering with this group for about 15 years. This particular event involves children from age four to 18, at one of the most wonderful times of the year – everyone just wants to be a part of that excitement. Getting the older students involved helps us to show them how good volunteering within your community can feel."


Although he is not a member of our Woodlands team, Mario Gionet can be found enjoying a New Brunswick outdoor adventure during his time off. He is a Senior Project Engineer with Atlantic Towing and the Vice President of the Saint John ATV Club, working on organizing trail maintenance on over 100kms of trail as well as group events. "My wife and I bought the SxS (side by side) a few years ago, as we both love the outdoors and are avid campers. If you're going to enjoy the trails that living in NB provides us all, it's important to recognize the work that goes into maintaining and caring for them. This doesn't happen by itself. So volunteering is a way to give back and meet all kinds of people that share the same love of the outdoors. It gives you a good feeling," says Mario about why he joined the group.


Dave Connell is no stranger to volunteering. He is a PALS Program volunteer, a coach for high school soccer, and a member of the Aquatic Centre committee. "I got into volunteering to really give back to my community. When I was younger I saw my mother going door to door and that has always been a part of my family. Even coaching youth to hopefully be a role model to them for their future, I really get a sense of worth when I get involved," says Dave.


Lisa Hupman, like many JDI employees, is an animal lover! That's why she started volunteering with ElderDog Canada: Saint John Pawd, a national not-for-profit dedicated to keeping seniors and their canine companions together as long as possible. "As an animal lover, volunteering for Elderdog as a dog walker has been very rewarding for me. The Elderdog program supports older adults in the care and wellbeing of their canine companions. I truly treasure the friendships I have with my Elderdog Senior Clients, my Elderdog Russi, and the rest of Russi’s Elderdog walking team," says Lisa about how the group has impacted her life.


Meet Jennifer Skerker and Donna Roberts from our Irving Tissue plant in Fort Edward, New York. The pair led all fundraising activities last year and were awarded the J.D. Irving, Limited 2021 Volunteer Achievement Award for their dedication. Events they took on included: adopt-a-family fundraising through cook-offs, bake sales, and silent auctions, with all funds raised going to families in need. As you can imagine, Jennifer and Donna are well-respected across our operations for their generosity and kindness.

"It is important to recognize how fortunate we are in life and no matter what problems or issues I am facing I know there are people out there who are struggling and dealing with a lot worse situations. I always feel that I have something more I can give to help others.," says Jennifer about why she believes it is important to volunteer.

"Initially it started as a small group of employees who decided to "Adopt a Family" rather than exchanging holiday gifts with each other. Each year it grew - no better way to bring the site together than to help children in need!" adds Donna about how her volunteer effort came about. 


The PALS En Route to Success program works with local high schools to partner students with different businesses to gain valuable experience. Kathy Ryder, who works with our Kent team at the West Saint John location, is a key member of the team, helping place students in areas of the store that would best suit them. "I really like being involved with PALS as it is helping these young people see what it means to work safely and take pride in what they do," says Kathy. "It is so great to see the differences in these young people from when they first start the program to when they finish. Most of them come in shy, with little confidence, and when they leave they are ready for the workforce."


Sheldon Richardson has been volunteering with the Hilden Fire Brigade for over 20 years! A member of our Woodlands team in Truro, NS, Sheldon has been serving as the Fire Chief for the past eight years. "It’s a family thing. My father was a firefighter first and a founding member of our department, then my two brothers and I became firefighters, and now my three kids have all become firefighters," says Sheldon.


For 13 years, Sue Crozier, a member of our Construction & Equipment Divisional team, has volunteered her time to help youth, ages 10 to 14, develop their self-esteem, teamwork skills, and physical fitness through cheerleading. She’s served as the Head Coach of the Harry Miller Middle School Diamonds Cheerleading team for 13 years, has been the New Brunswick Junior Cheerleading Association president for five years, and she’s a member of the Cheer New Brunswick Board.

Every year, Sue works individually with her team of junior athletes to help them define, practice, and achieve specific sets of goals, whether it’s as a cheer team member or as aspiring coaches.

“When our athletes take the floor to perform our routine and they are giving it their best, as a coach, you get goosebumps,” said Sue. “When you see each athlete and the team achieve their potential, it’s a memorable moment. To watch the growth of the athletes throughout the season is tremendous.”

In giving back to her community, Sue guides her cheerleaders as they jump, tumble, and dance toward physical and mental health and wellness. She finds it rewarding to see the athletes find the confidence to come out of their shells.