Graphic designer Ronan Lannuzel took the scenic route, one might say, to a point in his life where found himself volunteering with Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank.
Lannuzel, raised on the Ivory Coast and schooled in France, emigrated for work in Dublin, Ireland, for two years before finally coming to Nanaimo in 2001 and eventually opening his own design studio in 2004.
For the past 18 months Lannuzel has volunteered for Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, sorting food and beverages in the food bank’s warehouse Mondays and Wednesdays when the food is distributed.
Lannuzel used to watch the food bank’s activities at its headquarters on Farquhar Street from a nearby apartment building in which he lived. He stopped by to get information for a friend, and through talking with Peter Sinclair, the food bank’s executive director, he found they were looking for volunteers.
“I realized there is a big need to fill people’s basic needs,” he said.
Lannuzel, 39, is one of more than 400 volunteers who donate their time and skills to help sort, process and distribute in excess of 23,500 kilograms of food, valued at more than $130,000 each month to up to 6,000 clients who visit the food bank’s nine food depots across the city. In some cases, Loaves and Fishes delivers to people who can’t get to the depots.
Lannuzel also volunteers with Nanaimo Regional Correctional Centre’s chaplaincy program and with Nanaimo Search and Rescue, while still finding time to operate his Made by Design studio. He lives on Protection Island and often commutes by kayak.
“In France we don’t have the same idea about volunteering,” Lannuzel said. “Volunteering is not as big as it is in North America, generally speaking. I don’t know if it’s because we’re culturally different – it might also have a religious aspect to it – but I think in France particularly we expect the government to do much more for the people than here, where it’s more like, let’s take care of business ourselves instead of waiting for help. So here people tend to gather together and help each other more. I think there is a bigger sense of community in North America and Canada than there is in Europe.”
The payoff from volunteering for Lannuzel is the sense of personal growth he derives from helping other people. He also gets the chance to meet people he might not otherwise associate with and gets their perspectives on life and the world in which they live.
“We tend to be so self-focused and volunteering gives you the opportunity to focus on other people and I think that’s what I like about it,” Lannuzel said. “It’s also a humbling experience because you are in a serving position and I found that also good for the soul in some ways.”
Lannuzel is just one of Nanaimo’s hundreds of volunteers being honoured during National Volunteer Week (April 6-12) when the Nanaimo Volunteer and Information Centre Society hosts its 19th annual volunteer appreciation luncheon Thursday (April 10) at Beban Park Social Centre.
Special guests include representatives from the city and up to 400 volunteers representing Volunteer Nanaimo’s sponsoring agencies.
“This year’s theme is Mardis Gras, so people come dressed up in costume if they want and we have a costume parade,” said Marjorie Driscoll, Volunteer Nanaimo executive director.
The entire event is put on by volunteers, including local high school students who will serve the lunch to promote youth volunteerism. Agencies pay a fee of $50 per table to attend and the city covers venue costs.
Loaves and Fishes volunteers are also having their efforts honoured over free coffee and cookies with coffee coupons, sponsored by The Buzz Coffee House and Oak Bay Bikes as the companies’ way of saying thanks for chipping in to the community.
For more information, please call 250-758-7121.