Located in the Fraser Valley, Chilliwack was named by the Stó:lō First Nation and means “valley of many streams.” It’s the seventh-largest city in BC with just over 90,000 residents. Seniors 65+make up 16% of the total population. The city is also known for neighbouring Cultus Lake and Chilliwack Lake Provincial Parks. (Sources: Business in Chilliwack; Chilliwack.com)
The Chilliwack community response network (CRN) serves Chilliwack proper, Rosedale, Cultus Lake, Yarrow, and Sardis. The coordinator of this CRN is Ron Angell, a committed husband, retired RCMP sergeant, dog lover, and long-time Chilliwack resident and BC CRN volunteer.
In speaking to Ron, we notice he listens carefully, answers questions precisely, and seems to have no problems waiting patiently between questions as we transcribed his responses. After a few minutes, he’s soon freely sharing fascinating personal anecdotes of his extensive career with the RCMP and his personal life. A joke or two also creep into the conversation.
We are very pleased to introduce Ron as our volunteer of the month. Ron: Thank you for your contributions for the last 12 years…we’re looking forward to many more years working with you!
A Lengthy RCMP Career
Originally from Montreal, Ron started with the RCMP when he was just 20 years old. When asked why he decided on a career in policing at such a young age, he says: “I came from a lower-middle-class family. There were four of us kids so money was always tight. Going to college or university was out of reach. I was always interested in police work and the RCMP fit that. I’m also someone who likes change. Working in the RCMP allowed me to move around the country.”
With the RCMP as a national police force, Ron was indeed able to work all over Canada in a variety of roles.
Ron’s first job resulted in a move to Toronto where he held federal duties. “It’s similar to FBI-type duties in the US, but Canadian,” he explains. “Drug work, smuggling…I did this kind of work for about three years.”
He then moved out west where postings for constables opened up. “Once I was selected for the role, I was in BC within a month,” Ron adds. “I was doing general duty, responding to general calls. Then I did a couple of years of municipal traffic, then highway patrol, and then when I was promoted, I moved north.”
“The best job I had was as sergeant and detachment commander in Lytton,” he continues. “Including myself, it was a team of five. We worked hard, but we also had lots of fun too.”
Ron’s final move was to Chilliwack in 2000, and since his retirement in 2007, he and Deb, his wife of 46 years, and their four-year-old and eight-year-old German Shepherd dogs (“They are our fur kids.”) have chosen to stay and call Chilliwack home.
Policing and CRNs are All About Community
Ron believes in giving back to the community through volunteering. “Policing is all about community,” he says. “After 35 years of policing and serving the community, volunteerism is just burned into my psyche: it’s part of who I am. Just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I stop serving the community.”
Ron first heard of BC CRN while volunteering for another organization. “Once I learned what CRNs do, I wanted to get involved,” says Ron. “I saw a lot of senior abuse in my policing career, so getting involved with the CRN was an easy fit.”
After 11 years as a CRN volunteer, Ron became CRN coordinator a year ago.
Ron also encourages everyone to get involved in abuse and neglect prevention through a CRN, especially men. “It’s important for me to stay involved because I, too, am a senior,” he adds. “I would like to see more men volunteering with CRNs. Senior men risk abuse and neglect as much as senior women. We need both perspectives on the team.”
The Chilliwack CRN
The Chilliwack CRN is a team of between ten to 12 individuals all coming from different community and health agencies – Fraser Health Mental Health, Senior Peer Counsellors, the local hospice. One of the CRN’s major partners is the Chilliwack Healthy Seniors Task Team run by the City of Chilliwack.
“The pandemic has meant the team has gotten a little smaller, and instead of in-person meetings, we meet on Zoom,” says Ron.
One of the CRN’s largest projects is the development and distribution of “life boxes”. These boxes help organize important documents and information – emergency contacts, medication information, phone numbers for health providers – that can be accessed quickly and easily when needed. Life boxes are particularly helpful to seniors or vulnerable individuals that may require immediate support in an emergency.
In 2019, the CRN team completed and distributed the first run of 50 boxes to the community’s seniors as part of public awareness events in local businesses. The second run of life boxes was planned for last year, but because of the pandemic, the project had to be placed on hold temporarily.
For World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 2020, the CRN partnered with the Chilliwack Seniors Resources Society who created a drive-thru to hand out a variety of BC CRN educational materials and branded items.
An Extensive Volunteer Portfolio
In addition to his involvement with the Chilliwack CRN, Ron has held several other volunteer roles.
“The list is long and I could talk for hours!” he says. “Where I volunteer is directly related to where I am in life. When I was younger, I did a lot with kids. I was a Cub leader with the Boy Scouts, a basketball coach, among other things. Now that I’m a senior, I’ve organized the annual walk for the Alzheimer’s Society of BC when they had the event, a facilitator for their caregivers’ support group, and now, of course, I’m a CRN coordinator.”
A Shift in Community Awareness of Adult Abuse and Neglect
When asked about whether the community has become more aware of the issue of adult abuse, Ron answers with a resounding “definitely!”
Ron also says: “While I was a police officer, I answered senior abuse calls. I’ve seen abuse – physical, verbal, financial,” he explains. “Whenever I arrived at the house, I knew I wasn’t answering the first call of this sort from the household, and there were probably a dozen calls made prior to mine.
“Often the senior would often have little to say to me, especially with other family members present. They are feeling stressed and afraid because the abuse was allowed to happen. And often, the abuse is a family member living with them.
“Adult abuse is very similar to domestic abuse in a lot of ways. Abused individuals feel stressed and afraid because the abuse was allowed to happen and the abuser is often a family member.”
Thankfully, there has been a change.
“Abuse is nothing new and it’s always been there,” states Ron. “However, now there is much more awareness in the community on the issue. I’m seeing much more education happening. Banks are now very active in monitoring for financial abuse. There’s just a lot more knowledge out there, which is absolutely positive.”
Why Ron is Our Exceptional Volunteer of the Month
Devirani Naidoo, Regional Mentor – Fraser Valley East: “I was first introduced to Ron when he was referred to me as a key resource that could help with a challenging situation involving a senior affected by dementia and family abuse. Ron immediately offered his support and expertise. The Chilliwack CRN has benefited immeasurably from Ron’s past police experience and ongoing commitment to Alzheimer’s and dementia education. Added bonuses: he is thoughtful and has a great sense of humour that is a bright light in today’s darker, more uncertain times. As one of the few men involved in the CRN, Ron also balances the gender perspectives in all of our discussions. We are fortunate to have Ron on our team.”
Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn: @debbiechowabc.