Skip to content

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK: LUSH volunteers nourish and protect Comox Valley community

LUSH Valley’s programs focus on improving food access, improving food literacy and more

April 24-30 is National Volunteer Week in Canada. The Comox Valley Record will be featuring articles on volunteers from throughout the community all week long.


LUSH Valley Food Action Society is a non-profit organization centred around food security. LUSH Valley supports projects that educate and empower people to choose, grow and prepare healthy, local food.

LUSH Valley’s programs focus on improving food access, improving food literacy and improving the food economy. Key areas of focus are: healthy food programs, fresh food distribution, and policy and advocacy.

LUSH Valley works with hundreds of volunteers across all program areas. Here are just a few of the wonderful folks that help the organization nourish and protect the Comox Valley community.

Lee Linka

Lee Linka has been volunteering with LUSH Valley since 2017 in various programs that include farm gleaning, fruit tree and Good Food Box. Lee volunteers every week and always brings with her a warm smile and hard work ethic.

“Four years ago, I began to enjoy the company of staff and fellow volunteers of the LUSH Valley Food Action Society, while gleaning and weeding on organic farms in the Comox Valley. This led to picking fruit at various homes or farms with abundance, later in the season.

“Presently, I am packing and delivering Good Food Boxes for families, groups and single individuals suffering food insecurity here in our wide-ranging Valley.

“I have watched the progress of different work sites and various programs with LUSH, and am amazed at the scope. Now at their new home site, this experience continues to be rewarding and fun, as well as offers an opportunity to meet varied community members, and gives me an appreciation of how their programs unite people, produce and land culture.”

Chris Bate

Chris Bate is the secretary/treasurer on the LUSH Valley board of directors. He volunteers on a weekly basis with the organization and has even stepped in to help with special events, fundraisers and other projects.

“The beginning of the pandemic highlighted for me just how fragile our food security system is, not just for systematically excluded people but for everyone, on the Island, in B.C., in Canada and beyond,” says Bate. “LUSH was looking for new board participation and my respect for the organization and my increasing concern about food security made it a timely fit for my life and LUSH’s needs.

“While board members bring various skills and backgrounds to their volunteer work, it is the LUSH staff who know how to best run the society’s programs and tackle food security issues facing our community. The board itself operates on a modified consensus decision-making model, using its combined knowledge and the professional expertise of the LUSH staff to arrive at decisions supportive of staff and the society.”

Bate said the best board achievement was a permanent home purchased for LUSH. He noted while the executive director did the bulk of the work, every board involved-decision was made collaboratively with the executive director and arrived at via consensus decision-making.

“Hierarchical models of decision-making do not need to be the norm in non-profits and the day-to-day operation of LUSH Valley, and its board, prove that.”

Bob Rasmus

Bob Rasmus has been volunteering in North Vancouver and the Comox Valley for more than 40 years. He volunteers with the Better at Home Program and provides seniors with friendly greetings, camaraderie, occasional help with everyday tasks and weekly Hot Meals from LUSH Valley’s Food Share Program.

Every Monday, Rasmus delivers hot meals made from scratch by Chef James to the doors of seniors across the Comox Valley in a 70-km round-trip.

“Some people don’t do much on their own, so LUSH’s Hot Meal Program provides some nourishment. In exchange for delivering, drivers receive friendship, the joy of helping a senior, and occasional treats like cookies.”

Rasmus is also volunteering with LUSH Valley to design and implement a commercial kitchen in their new space. He has professional training and more than 50 years of draftsman experience to contribute to the task.

Jasper Gagne

Jasper Gagne volunteers with LUSH Valley as a kitchen assistant and facilitator of healthy foods programs. She has worked on the Young Cooks program for kids aged nine to 13 and various community kitchen classes for adults.

In addition to volunteering with Healthy Food programs, Gagne also helps with administrative and organizational tasks around the office on a weekly basis.

“My first involvement with LUSH was with the Gleaning program,”says Gagne. “I think it is a great program, harvesting the excess abundance of fruit and vegetables that a household or farm can’t use. By volunteering with this program I not only got to share in the harvest, but saw what varieties of trees and plants that flourished in this area. Having just moved to Comox Valley from the Yukon, I wanted to start a garden and used the information to narrow down my choices of cultivars to grow for good harvests.

“Now that I am retired, I volunteer in other ways to be useful. Food security is of concern to me and LUSH Valley is a great organization to help distribute fresh food, share knowledge of cooking skills and is invested in the community.”

Rosemary (Rosie) Helliwell

Rosie Helliwell is a devoted volunteer and certified green thumb.

“When I moved to the Valley, I found LUSH (Let Us Share the Harvest) on my doorstep. I became a member and was able to grow vegetables for myself and extras for those in need and donate through the local church and food banks. As a volunteer I enjoy filling food boxes, pruning apple trees and picking apples for the food boxes. Through LUSH I have learned new gardening skills: composting, crop rotation, soil amendment, all through our weekly work meetings, excellent presenters and Zoom.”

Using retired teaching skills, Helliwell was able to volunteer with the Summer Children’s Camps, help with classes in the school gardens, maintain their gardens over the summer holidays and help with the reorganization of the Vanier school garden.

“This 80-year-old body of mine is involved with hauling manure, woodworking (making compost boxes and benches for the LUSH Community Garden) painting, erecting willow fences and building new garden plots for new LUSH members. All these volunteer activities keep me fit, alert, busy and interacting with others young and old and the friendships made are invaluable. I’m especially thankful to be working alongside our First Nations gardeners and the prospect of welcoming beekeepers and hives to the Community Garden.”

LUSH Valley Food Action Society