Above and Beyond is a feature in the Nelson Star. It recognizes the many volunteers in our community who go above and beyond to help others. The individuals we profile are selected by a committee outside the newspaper based on set criteria. For example, the person must be volunteering over the long term, and mustn’t be paid for the work. If you’d like to nominate somebody for consideration by the Above and Beyond committee email their name and why they deserve recognition to: email@example.com.
Making a difference in someone’s life is a clear motivator of one local woman’s volunteer efforts.
Sheila Hart is a Rotarian through and through happy with the opportunities the service club gives her — to give back to her community and the world she’s travelled.
Shortly after moving to Nelson in 1992, the Rotary Day Break club was forming and Hart became a charter member. She says she’s a “lifer.”
The Kingston, Ontario native entered university with service in her heart. A degree in Social Work gave way to a 10-year career in Child Welfare. Coming to Nelson via Revelstoke where she met her husband, she joined the Sisters of St. Anne and spent 23 years in health care administration at Mount St. Francis.
But her volunteer roots were established in childhood.
“I grew up in a family that believed in giving back to the community,” said Hart. “My mom led by example. I’ve been really blessed and I just love giving back.”
Her volunteerism with Rotary has taken her around the world, fulfilling experiences plentiful, yet Hart is always happy to return to the community she now calls home.
“Honest to God, Nelson is the best place in the world to live,” she said. “From the first time I visited, my soul has been in British Columbia.”
Through Rotary, Hart has travelled to Sweden and India with the Friendship Exchange program. And she’s taken part in the Rotaplast in Peru and Nepal.
Rotarians sponsor medical missions to perform life changing plastic surgeries, often cleft-lip or palate operations, in third world countries.
“I go there as a little cog in the wheel, as a non-medical volunteer,” she said. “But it really makes a difference.”
She recalled one particular case where a 55-year-old woman had a facial deformity since birth and the impact it had to see it finally fixed.
These patients were once wrapped in plastic sheets after surgery. Hart is part of Wrap-A-Smile where quilts keep those patients warm.
Hart’s volunteerism also includes the role of coordinator for the MS Kootenay Challenge, an annual bike tour raising money for Multiple Sclerosis. And she’s a member of the Kootenay Quilter’s Guild that raffles off quilts for the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation and collects quilts to donate through Rotary.
“I’ve lost track of how many quilts I’ve collected,” she said.
Her work in the community often links up with the Day Break club. Hart tirelessly fundraised for Nelson’s new outdoor skate park. She helps with Meals on Wheels and listens to the L.V. Rogers grads present their “grad transitions” plans.
While seeing her efforts pay off in the lives of others keeps her going, Hart also said the intellectual stimulation is rewarding — that and the camaraderie.
“I love getting out there with people in the community,” she said.
In her spare time, Hart swims. “The pool is my heaven.” She hikes in the summer and cross-country skis in the winter.
“I don’t need anything,” she said. “It’s only about experience.”