There was a time when our community didn’t offer such extensive social programming through the government. That was also a time before taxation. (Insert sarcastic emoticon here). However, it was the people of the community who knitted socks for the war effort, ran soup kitchens, organized work parties, and held up the fort in all the arenas where life had intervened causing shortfalls. Neighbours would divide their crops, families would open their homes to share what they had.

Currently, our programs are so taxed with an increased population, longevity of lifespan, poorer health due to environmental causes, and numerous other influences, that we need to pitch in again. Libertarians understand from a financial perspective that the government is mishandling our funds, and that we should take care of ourselves without their oversight, however I find the principle goes too far in leaving certain demographics out in the cold. Perhaps it would be Darwinian. However in the human world that would rather callous.

Therefore we revert to volunteerism. However such work need not be mundane, need not be tedious. Volunteerism can be downright FABULOUS.

Let me introduce you to three reasons in the coming weeks why philanthropy is beautiful, is beneficial, is never altruistic, and has wide-reaching effects.


BRILLIANT! was started by the flamboyantly wonderful Dean Thullner, owner of Volume Studios, the hottest salon in town, as a give-back. Dean was one of those stricken with the HIV virus back in the late eighties.  Succumbing to his illness, thankfully St. Paul’s opened its doors to him, treating not just the illness but the person. There wasn’t much hope at the time, however they administered the cocktail in its early stages, fortunately with remarkable results! Dean regained his health, was able to attain his full potential, growing, living, loving and marrying his handsome husband David.

Then came a time he wished to return the favour.

Brilliant! was born. A fantastical trip of whimsy through fashion, choreography, music, and of course, HAIR (being sponsored by a dozen salons), the event was so successful it raised $300K the first year. St Paul’s Hospital Foundation took it on as their own after that, still run by Dean and his creative vision, and it is now in its third year of production. (Watch the YouTube video here)

This year, we take a trip around the world, celebrating inclusion through cultural diversity on the stage of the Commodore Ballroom, be it race, creed, or orientation.  Dean and his marvellous team celebrate how St. Paul’s offers compassionate care without judgement or bias. All of this could not have been accomplished without the efforts of 400 dedicated volunteers, who believe that this cause is a worthy one. It certainly is. The mental health department in St Paul’s is the one benefiting this year from their efforts, and from my time spent as a patient in St Paul’s myself, I can verify the necessity of a cash infusion there from the numerous “Code Gray’s” called over the PA system (violent patient in the Psych unit). And as the tragic loss of Robin Williams has shown us, mental health issues are not relegated to the impoverished of the DTES, but to all walks of life, those we love and know intimately.


Second on the agenda is the University Women’s Club of Vancouver’s third installment of Elevate and Celebrate after rave reviews. (Watch YouTube video here!) This time Hycroft Manor is reverting to its youth and going appropriately Gatsby with Greater than Gatsby

With many of its volunteers returning after assisting in the first two projects plus more wonderfully warm hearts and enthusiastic bodies joining the team, once again we are able to pull off another lavish event that is quickly raising the funds to create accessibility in this beautiful heritage manor.

Everyone is invited – posh ladies and gents, dress in your sartorial best, and enjoy high tea delicacies catered by the Parisian Plaisir Sucre, delicious wines from private estate vineyards, have your likeness captured with a vintage Rolls Royce whilst listening to the gypsy swing styling of Deanna Knight and the Hot Club of Mars. Symone Says shall usher you into this splendid manor. Be escorted down the palatial grand staircase into the ballroom by handsome gents to join the dance party raging in the ballroom, and kick up your heels to nine-piece Queer as Funk. Be wowed by belly dancer Arezou Zouzou Love, superstar performance by powerhouse Amanda Wood, and enjoy the cool daddy beats by DJ Don Braun. Should you wish a rest from dancing, have a nibble on the terrace whilst having your tarot read, laze about the garden playing your choice of bocce or croquet, or be escorted up the stairs to shop at one of the fine boutiques. It will dazzle and delight, and encapsulate your heart with the exuberance felt by all that afternoon.

Greater than Gatsby will be a lavish way to end an already sparkling weekend in true hedonistic style. This event has reaching implications, perhaps that is why so many faithful supporters, whether they be individuals, artists, or businesses, have stepped up time and time again to participate. Hycroft and the University Womens Club of Vancouver was a true Society Women’s Club which took care of the community’s needs. Annually it raises tens of thousands of dollars for women’s scholarships, it hosts educational lectures and occasions such as Persons Day or Womens Day, it supports a range of charitable ventures including, most recently, a child poverty initiative.

With the inclusion of proper accessibility to create a venue for all to benefit from, the good work of the club and its members could be more profound. Elevate and Celebrate is a movement that is certainly changing the community’s mind about their perceptions of Hycroft, and their thoughts about what it means to be a truly inclusive society at large.

Tickets for ‘Greater than Gatsby’ here:


Third on this list of stellar endeavors of celebratory wonder brought to you by devoted volunteers from our community is Carl and Les Annual Fall Gala 2014: It Takes a Village. 

Why am I teasing you about this fabulous event when the tickets sold out in two days? Because you need to know for next year! More importantly, you need to be aware of all the hard work Les and Carl’s wonderful team puts into this annual affair that has its loyal attendees begging for tickets.

This event raised $23,000 for the Out in Schools campaign last year, which is the educational branch of the Queer Film Festival, and aims to raise $30,000 this year. Promoting education in the classroom to end bullying through practical measures, this is a cause the LGBTQ community and allies alike can get behind. Bullying in any form is inexcusable, and the generous donors, ticket takers, performers, and organizers do a marvelously impactful job of bringing this cause to the forefront of our thoughts through joyous celebration, with a practical purpose of funding the programs.

I was going to stop at three, however after spending the week at Vancouver Fashion Week, I felt the need to say something about the wonderful team of volunteers I encountered there. Let me tell you a wee story (no pun intended!). I had gone in search of the wheelchair accessible bathrooms on the first day during the opening gala, to no avail. I stopped to ask two lovely ladies who were working as ushers, and they immediately jumped into action, recruiting other VFW volunteers to assist. Nick in security ran up and down the plaza in search of alternatives, whilst another woman got on her radio. I said I would go visit another building in the neighbourhood and a volunteer, Sharon, started off with me stating she would join me in my quest. I found them proactive, charming, and enthusiastic about being there, always a smile on every face. Jamal has created himself a good team, who I’m sure will stand by him next year. (He just needs to work on the bathrooms!)

Would all these volunteers tell you all the work involved to create such spectacular events was easy? Not at all. But would they tell you it was worth it? Absolutely. These people make the world go round. Think about your immediate world without volunteers, as just yourself as an autonomous unit. What if there wasn’t Grandma to watch the munchkins so you can have an afternoon to get things done. What if your neighbour didn’t receive your packages for you or let the cable guy in. What if people didn’t donate blood. What if we were selfish, insular, and preoccupied with the almighty US.

What if.