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PROFILE: Local senior puts heart into multiple volunteer 'jobs'

'I do it because there is a need and I am able to help. I have a heart that just wants to help,' says Kate Palmer, a long-time Orillia volunteer
Kate Palmer
Orillia's Kate Palmer has been volunteering with various city foundations and organizations for nearly 44 years.

Kate Palmer has spent much of her life serving multiple Orillia community organizations as a volunteer.

The Brantford native was studying communications at Centennial College and was majoring in journalism when she was offered a job in Orillia.

“I got a job here at The Packet & Times before I even finished my courses. I worked there for a year-and-a-half before moving back to Toronto to get married,” she explained.

Palmer and her husband, Paul, returned to Orillia in 1977 and she once again worked for The Packet & Times, this time for 24 years, as an advertising coordinator.

“Journalism wasn’t quite right for me, it didn’t fit, so when I returned I transitioned to the advertising department,” Palmer said.

In 2001, Palmer was let go from the company as part of corporate cutbacks. Palmer, then 50, struggled to find work in her field, so she decided to retire and focus on her passion for volunteering.

“I’ve been a volunteer all my life. I started volunteering for a couple of organizations when I was in high school,” she said.

When Palmer first moved to Orillia, she got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orillia & District.

“My husband and I never had children, but I always loved kids, so I became a big sister and within less than a year I became involved with their board of directors,” she explained.

Palmer served the organization as treasurer, as an in-school mentor, and was a big sister to 11 sisters during her tenure, which continues today.

“They all had such an impact on my life. It does so much for my heart to be able to spend time with young girls and help them grow and evolve into young adults. It’s such a rewarding program,” she said.

Palmer is also a long-time serving member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 34 Orillia, which she joined in 1985.

“My Dad was a veteran; he served in World War II in the navy. He was a member of a veterans association in Brantford and I saw the great work that they did, and my husband got involved with the Legion through minor baseball, so I decided to get involved, too,” Palmer explained.

Palmer ran for the executive just one year after she joined and has taken on many roles during her tenure, including sports officer, editor of the branch newsletter (Vets Gazette), district youth education chairman, and president from 1993-95, and again in 2003.

“The Legion has always been very special to me because we have to reach out to our veterans and help them as much as we can,” Palmer said.

Palmer still serves the Legion today and is one of their longest-serving members.

“I’ve been around for so many years with the Legion, so when they call on me for help I do so where and when I can,” she said.

Palmer has received some of the Legion’s top honours, including a life membership.

Currently, Palmer spends a lot of her time volunteering with Canadian Blood Services as a volunteer coordinator.

“I make sure there is someone always there to help out at the clinic. Sometimes I work at the clinic, and I used to donate blood,” she explained.

Palmer hasn’t been able to donate blood since 2017. After being diagnosed with colon cancer, she was required to be cancer-free for five years before she could return to donating blood.

“I’m counting the days because I have set myself a goal. I was at 195 donations when I had to stop, and I wanted to make it to 200,” she explained.

The now 70-year-old is hoping to be able to reach her goal of 200 donations in 2022.

“I’m hoping to get there, but if not, I will continue to encourage other people to donate blood because it’s really important,” she said.

Palmer has experienced first-hand the importance of blood donations. She had two brothers who had to be transfused at birth after being born with conflicting blood types from their parents. 

“I know the value in giving blood. When my husband was in the hospital a couple of years ago, he had to have blood transfusions. I’ve lived through it, and I realize the need for it,” she said.

For all her outstanding volunteer work and time spent giving back to the community, Palmer received the Order of Orillia back in 2004. She has also been nominated twice for Citizen of the Year.

“I am proud of the achievements I have been honoured with over the years and the recognition from my peers,” she said.

“It’s a humbling experience because there are so many great people in Orillia that do great work. This city is full of amazing volunteers and it’s unfortunate that they don’t all get recognized.”

While the recognition means the world to Palmer, it isn’t why she spends so much time working as a volunteer. She says she does it simply because she feels it’s the right thing to do.

“I do it because there is a need and I am able to help. I didn’t have children so I had the time, I have a heart that just wants to help,” she explained.

“For me to work with other caring people and help where I can is something that just falls into place for me."

Away from volunteering the Orillia senior spends her days crocheting, reading, and reflecting on her life and her time spent with her husband who passed away two years ago.  

Despite all her extraordinary achievements and accomplishments, Palmer says she is just like everyone else.

“I’m just an ordinary person doing ordinary things. I don’t feel special, I don’t feel like I am any different than any other person,” she said.

This feature appears each Monday. If you have an idea for someone who should be profiled in this space, send your suggestion to [email protected].


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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