Shirley DiPrimo enjoys helping others. The 81-year-old spends most of her time at the Mission Christmas Bureau. / Kevin Mills Photo

Mission senior always willing to help

Shirley DiPrimo volunteers her time at the Mission Christmas Bureau

After a slow start, things are about to get hectic at the Mission Christmas Bureau. Fortunately, a strong team of volunteers is prepared for the challenge of helping those in need this holiday season.

One of those volunteers is 81-year-old Shirley DiPrimo.

This is DiPrimo’s first year with the Christmas Bureau, but she has a long history of volunteering in this community and others.

“I do volunteer with TRIM (The Residence In Mission). I go on bus trips and to dinners and I did help with bingo there. I have done volunteering since about 1972,” DiPrimo said.

Most of her volunteering has come with ANAVETS – the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans group.

When she moved to Mission in 2012, DiPrimo immediately began searching for a local cause to volunteer with.

“I had to find something because I’m not a home, home person.”

But why does she dedicate so much of her time to volunteerism?

“Well, I grew up in foster car – that wasn’t very nice – back in West Vancouver, way back, when I was six years old.”

When she was in Grade 10, her foster family decided to move to California, but DiPrimo wanted to stay in B.C.

She remained in Vancouver, eventually studying practical nursing.

“But I got married and had five children in six years so I was a stay-at-home mom until I lost my husband in 1974.”

DiPrimo started working as a janitor at the Vancouver International Airport and left there 18 years later.

That’s when she got involved in the ANAVETS.

“We did this kind of thing every Christmas. We made hampers and delivered them to people’s homes. I just have to be with people. I’m not a stay at home one-on-one person.

“Because I have been in the place where most of these people are – I’ve never had to stay on the street but it came close – and if it wasn’t for the help of a couple of people … that’s what got me a little more outgoing. So I wanted to be doing things for other people – that’s what life is about.”

DiPrimo actually tried to work with the Christmas Bureau two years ago, but she said she never got a call back.

Last year she was set to volunteer again, except her new husband became sick and she needed to care for him.

“This year I was determined that I would be here, to hear the stories because I know the feelings these people have when they receive help and it takes a lot of courage to ask for help.”

DiPrimo is serious about her volunteering. She is at the Christmas Bureau six days a week, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and she’ll work until the bureau closes for the season.

“It makes you feel useful and makes you feel needed.”

Christmas Bureau leader Mika Brosseau said they would not be successful without volunteers, and DiPrimo is one of the best.

“Shirley is amazing. She is so busy. Absolutely wonderful.”

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