The Volunteer in Profile program is a CTV Calgary initiative that acknowledges our city’s greatest assests – Calgarians who are always giving the gift of time. CTV Calgary is honoured to present the Volunteer In Profile award, recognizing the outstanding contributions made by individual volunteers.
One day Lorne Haggarty struck up a conversation with a young man who worked at the Distress Centre every Friday night. Little did Lorne know that that conversation would lead him to become a passionate volunteer at the Distress Centre for the next 12 years.
“I thought, this has got to be a wonderful place if you take a teenager out of his Friday evening, and to devote it to be here[the Distress Centre],” reminisces Haggarty. “And that’s where I got started, that’s where the seed got planted.”
Lorne, a retired teacher, saw his mother repeatedly volunteering her nursing skills in rural Alberta, which is likely where his volunteer spirit got instilled within him. Once he retired from teaching, Lorne was looking for something to keep himself occupied, which he found at the Distress Centre.
“I realized after I retired from teaching that I had some transferrable skills and I wanted to apply those in some way,” says Haggarty. “I’m not a golfer so this is a way I could work with people.”
Over his 12 years with the Distress Centre, Lorne has become a leadership volunteer, which means that he also helps teach, train and support the new volunteers. That is, of course, when Lorne is not coming in at 5am to relieve people from the over-night shift.
“What I try to do when I am on the phone lines is to enrich that person’s life. And by that, in some cases, it is trying to save that person’s life,” says Lorne, his normally jovial smile disappearing as he becomes serious. “The primary thing is to listen to what that individual has to tell me, try to get them linked up with the resources they can follow up with, and to just make sure that their day is a better day.”
At the Distress Centre, Lorne tries to brighten everyone’s day, not only the callers. Robyn Romano, volunteer leadership coordinator at the Distress Centre, says that Lorne’s sunny personality is a much needed ray of sunshine at 5am. “I have found Lorne to really help staff at the Distress Centre as well. He is always coming in first thing in the morning, and he adds that humor, helps make your day come along and really gives you a laugh, which when you are working in an area of crisis intervention is super important.”
Perhaps it is his almost stubbornly jovial nature or perhaps it is his reliability, but Lorne is very well-respected within the Distress Centre, which has helped him form bonds with everyone he works with.
“What I have found is that there is a wonderful team of people here. A wonderful group of people who are supportive to one-another,” says Haggarty. “As a volunteer, I don’t do things alone; I do it with a team of people.”
It is his never-ending good humor while volunteering at 5am and his innate ability to develop the same passion in those surrounding him that earned Lorne Haggarty the Volunteer In Profile Award.