Young Men on a Mission

They’re not hard to spot at Kelowna General Hospital, all of them fresh-faced, friendly, humble young men. Amongst the doctors and nurses, the injured, sick and the aged that make up the majority of those milling about the hospital common areas, their youth and vitality stands out. Some are wearing red coats, greeting patients and guests as they come through the doors at KGH. Some are serving coffee and pastries at KGH’s on-site café, the Perking Lot, or hot soup and sandwiches at the Royal Bistro.

They are a long way from home. They have come to Kelowna with a purpose. Their faith and commitment to the betterment of humanity has called them and they have landed here at KGH.

“Our mission is to help the needy and cheer the downhearted,” says Tucker Haynes, a young man from Carson City, MI.

They belong to the Civilian Public Service (CPS) program, funded and managed by the Church of God in Christ Mennonite (CGCM). They come from across North and South America. The Kelowna unit, a group of four young men, was organized in 2013, making it the third unit in Canada, with the other two located in Montreal and St. John’s Bay, Newfoundland.

The origin of their volunteer work goes back long before these young men were even born to World War II. At that time, CPS was a plan of service provided under the United States Selective Service and Training Act of 1940 for conscientious objectors, a designation given to those persons whose conscience forbade them to perform military service, allowing them to serve in a non-violent way. In the six and a half years that men were drafted under this law, nearly 12,600 were assigned to CPS camps to perform “work of national importance.” Of these, nearly 40% were Mennonites.

Realizing that the program was not only helping our countries but also instilling the spirit of giving to the young men serving, the CGCM chose to adopt the program permanently. Today, all young men who are members of the CGCM have the opportunity to give time in the CPS program.

Just like their CPS predecessors the young men are designated conscientious objectors.

Hailing from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Iowa, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, South Dakota, Florida, Nebraska, California, Wisconsin, Alabama, Illinois, Georgia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, they volunteer at KGH for a six month period, and as one leaves another comes. To date, the KGH Foundation has welcomed 43 in total.

They volunteer in the Perking Lot and the Bistro, as well as the KGH Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Digital Imaging, Emergency Department and other areas of the hospital. They also volunteer for the Gospel Mission, Central Okanagan Community Food Bank and Restore. They sing at Cottonwoods Care Facility and other residential homes when asked.

The word is out within the Mennonite Community across Canada and the United States that the Perking Lot is the best

place to volunteer. They have become favorites within the KGH volunteer community (now over 400 strong) and each young man adds a little of his own personality to his shift.

“They are gentle, funny, engaging and deeply compassionate,“ says Nancy Wells, Director of Business Ventures for the KGH Foundation and volunteer manager. “Their youth and energy really helps the older volunteers with the duties in the Perking Lot and the Royal Bistro.”

Yet despite all that they give to support KGH, they express profound gratitude for the opportunity.

“I am thankful that Kelowna General and the KGH Foundation gives people the opportunity to volunteer,“ says Trevor Wiebe from Durham, KS. “It’s very rewarding giving others a helping hand.”

Echo’s Haynes, “It’s good work and I can tell I will really enjoy my time volunteering here. I’m a lucky guy and it’s a great feeling to be able to give back.”

The contributions of the Mennonite Boys, as they’ve come to be affectionately known, and of KGH Foundation volunteers in general, continues to play a vital role in funding advanced medical equipment and world-class patient care at KGH.

Every four hour volunteer shift represents an $84 donation. Last year, KGH Foundation volunteers alone were responsible for raising over $850,000. To apply to become a volunteer, please click here.