Some volunteers’ efforts are clearly seen and appreciated by all. Some volunteers’ efforts are more behind the scenes. Karen Pitts is one of those volunteers who falls into both categories. I’m not sure that the word ‘volunteer’ is fair; Karen is much more of a fixture in the Threads of Life family.
Karen’s life was forever changed the day her brother entered an oxygen-deprived confined space at work. Jaime Lapierre lost consciousness and died at the very young age of 21. Karen first met Shirley Hickman way back when the LifeQuilt was being displayed for the first time, before Threads of Life was established. A few years later Karen received an invitation to the Central Canada Family Forum through the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia. Karen was happy to attend, accompanied by her mother. This cemented Karen as a member of the Threads of Life family.
In 2008 Karen took the plunge and became a Threads of Life volunteer. That year she took the Speaker’s Bureau training and became a strong voice in the promotion of safe work practices in Nova Scotia. Karen is still an active speaker today. The next year Karen jumped in with both feet and took Volunteer Family Guide training. Exposing and sharing your own pain and grief while trying to help someone else along their journey of healing is a difficult thing to do. This is what Karen chose to do back in 2009 and continues to do today.
In 2014 Karen volunteered to help organize the Halifax Steps for Life walk. It was a rebuilding year for the Halifax walk committee, but this didn’t faze Karen at all; in true fashion she jumped in feet first, helping to make the Halifax walk a success. Karen is looking forward to the 2015 Halifax Steps for Life Walk and doing her part in making it an even bigger success.
Karen’s behind-the-scenes work on the Atlantic Canada Family Forum is a bit of an untold story. All the beforehand prep work that needs to be done in Halifax before the Threads of Life staff rode into town is done by Karen. After all is said and done, Karen simply asks if we are sure there is not more she can do.
Why does Karen volunteer for Threads of Life? I think it’s best said by Karen herself. “I volunteer with Threads of Life because it is near to my heart. My brother Jamie died on the job on February 9, 2000 after entering a confined space. It was a moment in my life that I never saw coming. It was preventable. So in honour of his memory and all the other families that are affected by workplace injuries, I do what I can to educate and promote safety in the workplace.”
Karen’s favorite memory in regards to her volunteer work is one that is shared by many Threads of Life volunteers. Karen says, “My favourite part about volunteering with Threads of Life is that I get to talk to so many people with diverse backgrounds but who share the loss of a loved one, or who are living with the outcome of an illness or injury. I am inspired by those individuals I meet.”
Karen’s volunteer work is not limited to Threads of Life. She also volunteers with Feed Nova Scotia, Salvation Army Center of Hope Halifax, Metro Turning Point shelter, and the Alex’s Safe Harbour bereavement support program. It is volunteers like Karen that make Threads of Life possible.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of our free quarterly newsletter, Threads. For more personal stories, news, and information from Threads of Life and our family members, subscribe here.
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having experienced a serious injury while working as a millwright. Kevin was forced to change careers, and earned a post-grad certificate in health & safety management as well as a diploma in human resources.
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