Renee Nicholson knows exactly when she’ll put an end to her tradition of helping others: when it stops being fun.
“If I’m not happy, I’m not staying,” the South Surrey senior said matter-of-factly, in a recent interview about her years as a White Rock RCMP Community Policing volunteer.
Retired since 1992, Nicholson began volunteering with the detachment in September 2000.
As of the end of 2014, she’s logged 8,000 hours – the most ever accumulated by a single volunteer in the detachment’s history.
“We’ve never had anyone in White Rock reach 8,000,” said crime-prevention co-ordinator Julia Everett. “No one is close to Renee’s hours.”
Nicholson is among volunteers who will be celebrated Friday (April 24) at the detachment’s annual Volunteer Appreciation event.
Chatting outside the Pacific Avenue office, it’s clear Nicholson is uncomfortable being singled out for attention.
“It is an honour,” she said of volunteering. “I don’t look at it as being anything special. I did it because I could give back to the community.”
Over the years, Nicholson’s involvement has ranged from establishing the Mature Driving program in White Rock and patrolling the streets at night with other volunteers, to helping with the annual Red Serge fundraiser and looking after the city’s wandering-persons registry. She’s put in up to 12 hours in a day, and has even been the “poster girl” in a campaign that sent her picture across the province.
While the latter was a surprise, in no way did it dampen her enthusiasm for helping.
“(There’s) no job that she’s given me that I haven’t liked,” Nicholson said, referring to tasks requested of her by Everett.
“The only thing I don’t do now is going out at night in the van.”
Everett is certain that if not for Nicholson’s watchful eyes on one particular night on patrol, one teen may not have lived to see the light of day.
“That could’ve been a death if you hadn’t been involved,” Everett told her.
Recalling the night, Nicholson agreed the situation initially appeared dire.
“We thought he was dead,” she said of the teen found seemingly lifeless at the side of the road in the 15700-block of North Bluff Road.
Closer investigation by authorities determined the youth had alcohol poisoning. He was “drunk out of his mind,” Nicholson said, as she recalled the youth insisting to officers that he was born in 1920.
On another patrol, she and fellow volunteer Allen Barnett alerted police to an individual seen breaking into a house – a sighting that led to an arrest. Nicholson has also helped police recover “many” stolen vehicles, through checking licence plates of random vehicles. Her most recent find was logged about a month ago.
Nicholson credits her penchant for helping to the way she was raised.
“My family always believed in doing good for others,” she said. “I always learned to give, not to keep.”
Community policing is not the only area where she lends a hand, either. Nicholson is active with the Rotary Club of South Surrey, and every tax season spends hours at the Kent Street Activity Centre helping seniors with their tax returns. This month, she’s put 40 hours into that task alone; 75 hours since March 15.
More recently, she has started knitting afghans for babies as a community ambassador for Telus – a program available to current and retired employees. Nicholson worked 35 years for the company when it was known as BC Tel.
Getting involved is, quite simply, a huge part of what makes Nicholson who she is.
“All the time I’m doing it, I’m meeting lots of really good people,” she said. “When we used to do Community on Patrol at night, lots of people would stop and thank us. It made it all worthwhile.”