The Little Current United Church is a labour of love for the Edwards

Ivan and Betty Edwards

LITTLE CURRENT – While Betty Edwards had been volunteering her time with the Girl Guides of Canada before the family’s move to Little Current in 1989, she and her husband Ivan began a major foray into volunteerism once they landed on Manitoulin and have loved every minute of it.

This Volunteer Week interview takes place in the hall of the Little Current United Church, a place that factors heavily into the couple’s daily lives, especially of late.

When Ms. Edwards was invited to join the afternoon curling group at the Little Current Curling Club, it quickly escalated to the wearing of many hats for the couple.

“We did everything,” she laughed. The Edwards cleaned, cooked meals, tended bar, organized the afternoon curling and, well, curled. Mr. Edwards was also the treasurer. (Readers will start to see a trend forming—cooking and money management).

“Betty was also quite involved in the summer bonspiels,” her husband noted.

Following Mr. Edwards’ retirement from Hydro One, he joined the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) board of directors where he served for 12 years, two years of which he was a member of the board of directors of the then-Sudbury and District Health Unit. Currently, Mr. Edwards also acts as the volunteer patient advisory representative, reporting to the MHC board.

During one Sunday service, past Little Current United Church (LCUC) minister Faye Stevens encouraged her flock to invite friends and neighbours to come to church. Barb Cranston did just that and invited the Edwards, her next-door neighbours, to church. They have been attending ever since.

Once Ms. Edwards began attending the church, it wasn’t long before the United Church Women (UCW) swooped her up with Ms. Edwards volunteering whenever she could with the women, eventually becoming a member.

What she most loved about being in the UCW is working alongside an incredible group of women. Sadly, with an aging membership, the UCW disbanded as of March 1, but they continue as the ‘fellowship group,’ helping with church events and outreach whenever they can and as COVID restrictions allow.

Ms. Edwards and some of her fellow church members have also organized a ‘mini meals’ (meals on wheels-type) program for some of their shut-in congregation members, which is greatly appreciated by those they serve.

Ms. Edwards currently also holds the title of envelope steward, meaning she organizes the weekly offerings for the work of the church and for national and international work, and is also in charge of charitable receipts.

Mr. Edwards acts as the treasurer of five different aspects of the LCUC, many of which were supposed to be on an interim basis, he laughed. Mr. Edwards modestly said it’s not that he’s particularly good at money management, but rather a fact that no one ever seems to want to take the treasurer’s job.

Before the pandemic, the couple also took great joy in helping with the church’s Friday night open mic sessions featuring George Williamson and friends. “George is patiently waiting,” Ms. Edwards said of the days when open mic nights can begin again. Freewill collections at these events are sent to the Manitoulin Food Bank.

To top it all off, the Edwards also volunteered with the Good Food Box program, which sees its distribution system run from the church hall, before COVID-19 restrictions saw an end to this volunteer role, for now. (The Good Food Box program continues, but uses its agency’s staff during the pandemic.)

Volunteerism is in the blood, it seems, as daughter Lori also lends a hand to the church through uploading the Sunday services (which can be viewed on Facebook Live) every Sunday morning and then, in the afternoon, Lori archives each service on the church’s website..

“If somebody asks, we’re there,” Ms. Edwards sums up the couple’s view of volunteering.

“My feeling is, no matter what age you are, if you can volunteer, volunteer,” she continued. “Otherwise, you’d be at home sitting on your butt growing old. It keeps you active.”

The Edwards spoke of the many people volunteering has brought into their lives. 

Mr. Edwards admits that while growing up and into adulthood, volunteering wasn’t part of his life, but after he retired he felt the need to give back of his time. “I have met so many nice people,” he added.

“It’s a good feeling that you’re, in some small way, helping,” Mr. Edwards continued.

“Any of these things I’m involved with, I’m not doing it on my own, there’s others working with me, and that’s what I miss the most right now,” Ms. Edwards said, adding that she’s looking forward to the day when the pandemic ends and she can work alongside her friends once more.