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Richmond’s 2022 star volunteers announced

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 10:17 PDT, Thu May 5, 2022

Last Updated: 10:44 PDT, Thu May 5, 2022

The four recipients of this year's Volunteers Are Stars Awards, presented annually by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, have found meaning and value in community service. 

The awards were presented during a virtual ceremony on April 27, amid National Volunteer Week. There were 18 nominees, comprising both individuals and groups. 

In many cases, this year’s winners are involved in causes with which they have a personal connection, channeling their passion in a way that benefits others. They frequently reference how much they enjoy working with people, embodying what volunteering is all about: meeting fellow community members, making new friends, and making a difference together.

The 2022 recipients highlight the diversity of Richmond's volunteer spirit, although they share a common sense of purpose. In their own way, they want to make their community better.

Star of Richmond Award Winner (Excellence in Non-Profit Leadership): Tammi Belfer, Richmond Women’s Resource Centre

Belfer has been volunteering for nearly five decades, often in leadership roles. 

From 1974 to 2000, she served as a board member with the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training. Rooted in Jewish values, the organization enhances the economic prospects of individuals and communities by providing them with employment and entrepreneurial skills. 

Through much of the 1980s, Belfer was a board member with the Richmond Aquanaut Swim Club, which later merged with the Richmond Racers to become the Richmond Rapids Swim Club. During her time there, she served as treasurer, supported membership development, and regularly volunteered at swim meets. 

She also served eight years on the board of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives—back when the organization was known as Volunteer Richmond Information Services—also as treasurer. She remains involved with the organization’s Richmond Christmas Fund program, volunteering each holiday season to assist families in need. 

Since 2015, Belfer has served as board president of the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre (RWRC), where she’s had a transformational impact.  

She’s played a key role in developing the organization’s board, recruiting a diverse group of new members—including many young people—who are passionate about helping women build connections and thrive in their community. 

Belfer also volunteers as project manager for the organization’s annual International Women’s Day event, which is both a community gathering and a major fundraiser, complete with an auction and raffle. 

Recently, she helped lead the RWRC in drafting a five-year strategic plan, and, in 2019, was a key voice in the organization’s rebranding effort, which resulted in a new logo created in consultation with the community. 

During COVID, Belfer worked diligently with the organization’s executive director to bring all of its programs and services online, so they would remain accessible throughout the pandemic. 

Belfer also helped create many of the RWRC’s most popular initiatives, from Hot Ink, a creative writing program for teenage girls, to Work Ready, which supports women in developing employment and job-search skills. 

She’s also a current board member of the Jewish Senior Alliance and Beth Tikvah Synagogue, where she actively participates on committees, and generously shares her knowledge and experience, so both organizations can better serve their constituents. 

Through her decades of service, Belfer has left an indelible mark on the Richmond community, and improved thousands of lives.  

She’s still giving her time, and still making a difference, even as she mentors young volunteers on their way to becoming community leaders. She’s one of the giants on whose shoulders they’ll stand.

Shooting Star Award Winner (Outstanding Youth Volunteer): Li Qing Wang, Richmond Women’s Resource Centre

Wang has found time to build an impressive volunteer resume, and her community service is especially noteworthy because finding time isn’t easy: she’s also enrolled in medical school. 

In 2020, as part of Leadership Richmond’s Youth Now program, she joined the board of the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre, where she continues to volunteer today.  

Initially, Wang took time to observe and learn the fundamentals of non-profit governance. In short order, however, she was making significant contributions, from serving on the governance committee to co-leading the revision of the organization's constitution and bylaws.  

She also developed and launched a new program, which, by providing resources and mentorship opportunities, empowers female-identifying youth to pursue professional careers. 

Wang’s medical background has created another avenue of community service. During the pandemic, she helped facilitate contact tracing in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, with a focus on physicians who had been exposed to COVID-19. 

She also mentors students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, supporting them along their journey as they apply to medical school. 

Over the years, Wang has volunteered with the Richmond Centre for Disability, Richmond Lions Manor, and Canadian Cancer Society, and back in high school, at A.R. MacNeill Secondary, she served as president of the First Responders Club. 

During her time in Youth Now, she worked with other young leaders to create a video, meant to highlight the Richmond community’s resilience throughout the pandemic.  

The video features interviews with volunteers and non-profit leaders, and acts as a living historical document, emphasizing how strong and connected the community truly is. Wang has played a big part in that, not wasting a single minute as she pushes for—and inspires—positive change.

Constellation Award Winner (Outstanding Volunteer Group): South Arm United Church Outreach Committee

When it comes to volunteering, there are no age limits. Just ask “Grandma Gen,” who at 98 years old continues to serve her community as a member of the South Arm United Church Outreach Committee.

The group has a long history of supporting Richmond’s charitable sector, raising funds through car boot sales, silent auctions, and the much-loved annual country fair. 

Most significantly, however, the outreach committee has had a 20-year association with the Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, an organization that provides one-on-one and group support, counselling, and advocacy services to people living with HIV and AIDS. 

Each month, volunteers in the group host a free dinner for Heart of Richmond members, their families, and caregivers. Over the years, these gatherings have become a lifeline for vulnerable and isolated members, offering a supportive, safe, and familial atmosphere.  

For those living with HIV and AIDS, the dinners have had a positive impact on their health and self-esteem, giving them the confidence to engage in other community activities. 

During COVID, the dinners couldn’t happen, but the committee volunteers didn’t stop. Rather than hosting a group meal, they prepared and packaged individual meals at home, then delivered them to the Heart of Richmond office where they could be distributed to members. 

The volunteers give back in other ways as well, whether by providing members with emotional support, driving them to community events, or donating clothing and household items to members who are struggling financially. 

In April, the committee hosted its first in-person dinner since the pandemic began. For both members and volunteers, it was something they had been looking forward to, and a chance to bring their shared community back together.

Nova Star Award Winner (Outstanding Individual Volunteer): Dawn Thomson, Special Olympics BC - Richmond and Salvation Army Rotary Hospice House

Thomson has been described as an “agent of equity.”  

Since 2004, she’s volunteered with the Richmond chapter of Special Olympics BC, supporting the organization at both the operational and executive levels.  

As equipment manager, she assists coaches in maintaining, tracking, and transporting sports equipment, uniforms, and other items, ensuring that Special Olympics athletes have everything they need to perform at their highest level. 

She’s also a coach herself. Currently, she works directly with 11 athletes, coordinating their annual program and equipment needs, and, together with her son, providing them with fundamental fitness exercises. 

When not on the court or the field, Thomson helps host social events for athletes, giving them an opportunity to come together, network, and celebrate as part of a larger community.  

In addition to all this, she’s one of the organization’s star fundraisers. From hosting pub nights to securing donations from local businesses, she works tirelessly so that individuals with intellectual disabilities can grow and thrive through the power of sport. 

Thomson’s other passion is volunteering at the Salvation Army Rotary Hospice House, where she’s served since 2009. In her time there, she’s worked alongside care staff to support over 400 individuals and families, helping to make the end-of-life transition manageable, peaceful, and comforting. 

As the parent of a daughter living with Down Syndrome, Dawn speaks glowingly of the supports and services available to Richmond residents. Her family has benefitted from organizations like the Richmond Society for Community Living, and in turn, she’s paid it forward many times over.  

Reflecting on her life in Richmond, she says that it “gives (her) a sense of higher purpose and belonging to live and volunteer here.” In community service, she’s found a way to show gratitude and make a profound difference.

A recording of the ceremony is available online: Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives organizers hope to hold the event in-person in 2023.

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