May Volunteers of the Month: Calen C. & Susanna N.

April 29, 2016

Calen C. and Susanna N.

Congratulations to April’s Volunteers of the Month! Yes you read that correctly, this month we are celebrating not one but two people! Calen James C. is one of our Friendly Visitors, and today we’re talking to him and his friend Susanna N. who he met via the Friendly Visitors Program. Our Friendly Visitors Program is one of the services QMUNITY provides to seniors in Metro Vancouver. It matches LGTBQ volunteers with LGTBQ seniors for visits in seniors’ homes or in long term care facilities.

So, hi team, thanks for joining me for a few questions! First of all, can I ask how you got involved with QMUNITY?

CALEN: I met a women named Gwen at a presentation at my work on the North Shore at Lion’s Gate Hospital and asked her if there were any LGBTQ organizations I could join, she suggested QMUNITY and the rest is history!

SUSANNA: Two of the team members at the Saint Paul’s Hospital Elder Care Clinic suggested getting in touch with QMUNITY. Eve Lyon, the social worker with the the team, told me about the Friendly Visitors Program and gave me Allison’s (former QMUNITY Seniors Coordinator) phone number.

And what’s your favourite thing about QMUNITY?


The sense of community it creates, the chance to meet new people and the opportunity to give back.

SUSANNA: I like the services and programs for seniors

Tell us a little about yourselves?

CALEN: I consider myself ‘North American’ as I have lived everywhere: California, New York, Wisconsin, Florida, Hawaii, Ontario, Norway, South Africa and now here. I am an occupational therapist and I work in community mental health, specifically in housing.

SUSANNA: I am retired. I have lived in the West End for the better and best part of my life. It is where I feel most at home and comfortable. At present, I am trying to help, as best I can, my partner, who is ill. I am also starting to cook again, after several years of not being able to. And I am trying to learn something about photography. I like peanut brittle more than I should. I love the smell of lilacs and the first cut of grass in the spring. I hate bell peppers, which annoyingly tend to be in everything. I love good food, kind people, a great book, sunsets, fresh air, laughing and really good hugs.

Can you tell me about a favourite memory with the Friendly Visitors Program?

CALEN: A highlight of the friendly visitors program would be a fun dinner Susanna and I had on St. Patrick’s day at Corduroy in Kits and then walked to the beach and watched the sunset. I’ve worked with seniors in the past, but never with any LGBTQ seniors. I consider them the pioneers and have such respect for that generation and specific population and have always wanted to give back.

SUSANNA: A favourite memory from the Friendly Visitor program is having fish tacos–for the first time!–at Tacofino in Gastown, then going to Tinseltown to see “Eddie the Eagle” and walking back home to the West End.

Those both sound like great days! Susanna, could you tell us what the FVP means to you?


The FVP has brought a wonderful person into my life. Except for my partner, I was essentially without friends for about twenty years.

I did have friends earlier in my life, but after I had a few episodes of mental illness, my friends abandoned me. Even though I was in a long-term relationship for eighteen of those twenty years, I was very lonely at times. I missed having friends, but I was unable to connect with, or be comfortable with, people. It didn’t help that I am shy and usually don’t talk very much. I often thought I would never have friends again.

Help us to continue supporting LGBTQ Older Adults: join us for our annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia breakfast fundraiser ➜ Get your tickets here.

Then Allison introduced me to Calen. Calen is very easy to be with. I always enjoy being with him. I feel completely comfortable with him. I find it easy to talk to him. About anything, really. I have very much enjoyed our outings. We always do something, which gets me out. And this has also brought new things and experiences into my life.

Among other things, Calen has introduced me to fish tacos and excellent spicy lamb pizza. We have gone to a couple of movies, which I have never really done before, and I look forward to seeing more. We are going to the Vancouver Art Gallery and to a performance by Ballet B.C.

He lets me send him satirical articles from The New Yorker. I have also sent him links to exciting YouTube videos, such as my dog in a ridiculous contraption, but cute nevertheless; a classic PBS episode of Julia Child on the making of an omelette; and Julia Child talking about MacDonald’s french fries. At least he pretends to like these.

He is now my friend. Thank You, Calen. Thank You, Allison. Thank You, FVP. Thank You, Eve, who really started it all.

DANNY: That’s really wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

Calen, what’s your favourite way to spend a day in Vancouver?

CALEN: My favourite way to spend a day in Vancouver is brunch at Catch 122 (one can hardly do better than the truffle omelette and bread pudding french toast, so delicious!), followed by a walk through Gastown and into Coal Harbour, followed by a walk around the Seawall and then a nap in Stanley Park. And then ending the day on any one of our beaches with a picnic and a glass of wine, watching the sunset.

Susanna, if you could have anyone over for dinner who would it be?

SUSANNA: If I could have anyone over for dinner, it would be Julia Child. Although she has now passed away, she is someone I would have liked to spend an hour or two with. (I did speak with her, though only very briefly, by telephone two or three times.) I would be too intimidated to cook for her, of course. She did so much to educate us about cooking. Her shows on PBS in the 1970s are classics. They were wonderful to watch. It was not just the recipes or the cooking, it was Julia Child herself.

I watched faithfully–in glorious black and white on a 12″ television–not for the recipes so much, but to see Julia.

There were many memorable moments of Julia cooking. She had a great way of carrying blithely on, with improvised adjustments, in spite of any error or miscalculation she might have made. These were not entirely rare and demonstrated, I think, that you can get around cooking errors and still come out with a very good result. Some episodes are now on YouTube, but it really is just not the same. It would also be interesting to learn about her life before she went to Cordon Bleu, e.g. is it true she was a spy for the Americans?

And for Calen, if you had a Patronus, what would your Patronus be?

CALEN: My Patronus would be a friesian 🙂

Susanna, if you were an item of clothing, what would you be and why?


If I was an item of clothing, I might like to be a very well-worn brown leather jacket, a bit too large, with an inside pocket on the left side, which smells very much like old brown leather. I have such a jacket; I find it soothing and comforting to wear.

Message from Danny: Thank you, Calen and Susanna, for being an inspiration for us all!

Help us to continue supporting LGBTQ Older Adults: join us for our annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia breakfast fundraiser ➜ Get your tickets here.

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