Iva Hancock may be a petite-sized woman, but she’s got a mammoth amount of energy and a heart the size of Chilliwack.
Over a fresh-brewed pot of tea, the 74-year-old mother of four and grandmother of eight, listed off her volunteering endeavors: Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association, Chilliwack Society for Community Living, Chilliwack Lady Lions, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Canadian Cancer Society, Chilliwack United Church, Manna Soup Kitchen, Little Mountain elementary… the tea was practically cold by the time she reached the end of her list.
Hancock is this year’s Soroptimist International Woman of the Year.
“I’m embarrassed, overwhelmed, there are so many other woman out there who do so many great things,” she said.
Some might describe Hancock as humble, and rightfully so.
This woman, almost from the second her family arrived in Chilliwack 37 years ago, has been extending a lending hand. And she did so while working as a nurse and raising her four children, one of whom is handicapped.
When Hancock’s youngest daughter Erin, now 39, was born with spina bifida, a physical handicap resulting from the incomplete development of the spinal cord, her volunteering path was paved. Three years later, when Erin developed meningitis, which resulted in brain damage and a loss of vision, it was secured.
“There’s a lot of need out there,” she said. “I can think of all sorts of other things I’d like to be involved in if I wasn’t already involved in the things I’m doing right now.”
When Hancock retired from nursing in 1997, she had no desires to stay at home and take up knitting or sewing, or spend hours touring the malls.
“I like to be busy,” she said.
Does she ever.
A week, let alone a day, in the life of Iva Hancock would have most people spinning with exhaustion. She attends the woman’s meeting at Chilliwack United Church, participates in book clubs and bible studies, delivers food for Meals on Wheels, attends church council meetings, sits on the board of directors for the Lion Roy Campbell Lodge, works in the United Church Thrift Store, volunteers at Manna Soup Kitchen. And on top of all that, she spares time for scrabble club and social gatherings.
What started out as a way of gaining personal support has turned into a love of giving support.
“I can’t imagine not having these things to do every day,” she said. “Lots of people say ‘you’re so busy,’ but if you were working you’d be spending just as many hours doing that. “It feels good knowing that I’m helping people.”
Hancock doesn’t have a favourite – “I love them all,” she said. – but she does have handfuls of moments that have stuck to her heart.
When she volunteered at Little Mountain elementary reading with the Grade 1 students,
“It was really great to see the kids develop their reading skills and to see them all of a sudden get it.”
And when she volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Breast Health Education Program, “that was really rewarding too because a couple of the woman told me afterwards that they found lumps,” and early diagnosis is huge when it comes to breast cancer.
And the times when a homeless person says a simple thank you after she hands him or her food and clothes at the Manna Soup Kitchen warms her heart.
“It feels good knowing that I’m helping them even if only for that day,” she said.
And it’s moments like those that made Iva Hancock this year’s Soroptimist Woman of the Year.
The Woman of the Year awards banquet is on April 27 at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn at 6 p.m.. Tickets are $40, available at the Chilliwack Progress.