Mikes (Michal) Patterson has no plans to slow down after recently logging her 3,000th volunteer hour at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Mikes (Michal) Patterson has no plans to slow down after recently logging her 3,000th volunteer hour at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Volunteer at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea marks major milestone

Mikes (Michal) Patterson completed 3,000 hour of volunteer work at the non-profit aquarium

When Mikes (Michal) Patterson completed her 3,000th volunteer hour at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, balloons did not drop down from the ceiling to mark the momentous occasion.

In fact, Patterson cannot recall what she was doing when she crossed that threshold in mid-December.

“Probably trying to climb the ladders to feed the fish,” she said, with a chuckle. “It’s not a job for most people, especially my age, but I love it — love it dearly.”

Getting on and off the ladders accessing various tanks in the centre – with its 35 aquarium habitats home to more than 160 marine species and 3,500 animals – can be a bit of a squeeze for anyone.

But Patterson, who is preparing to celebrate her 80th birthday in 2021, sparkles with enthusiasm as her fingers dribble feed into one of the more accessible tanks, all while promising its occupants a delicious meal of plankton. “I love talking to the fish,” she said. “I always talk to them as I feed them.”

While feeding the fish (and other marine life) at the centre is Patterson’s main volunteer duty these days, her historical portfolio of volunteer roles has reached far beyond. In fact, Patterson was already on the books as a volunteer even before the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea officially opened its doors in the current building in June 2009.

RELATED: Shaw Centre for Salish in Sidney ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future

Volunteers like Patterson, one of 125 current volunteers ranging from 13-year-olds to octogenarians, are integral to the running of the non-profit aquarium as they perform various duties, said Tina Kelly, the centre’s director of learning. “We are not only proud of our place in the community of Sidney but the community we have within our walls, thanks to volunteers.”

As a member of that community (which racked up 6,265 total volunteer hours between June 2019 and May 2020), Patterson has volunteered in administration, species collection, and youth volunteer mentoring over the years. Patterson has also helped with public outreach and educated centre visitors, said Kelly. “Now, I don’t like people,” interjects Patterson, drawing laughter.

RELATED: VIDEO: Henry, the giant Pacific octopus named for B.C. doctor, released back into the sea

Patterson’s past work as a naturalist on whale-watching boats, the Institute of Ocean Sciences, and with the Sidney Whale Museum, one of the precursor organizations of the centre, suggests otherwise and speaks to her passion for the ocean and its creatures, be they small or large.

Born and raised in Victoria, Patterson eventually found her way to Central Saanich, then Sidney, after having retired from her career as a medical technologist at the age of 48. By her early 50s, she was satisfying her passion for the sea through travel as well as her multiple volunteer roles, a passion that has filtered down to Patterson’s granddaughter, who is currently completing her bachelor of marine biology in Bristol, England.

“She is dedicated, tenacious, fun, and has a fantastic sense of humour,” Kelly says of Patterson. “She has a zest for life and lifelong learning that is inspiring. Her commitment to the (centre) combined with her confidence in truth telling, she has no doubt influenced the organization in ways we can’t measure. After 11.5 years, I am also proud to call her a friend.”

Patterson, for her part, says that she does not plan to slow down, even if she might have plenty of reasons to do so.

“I think part of living is that you are always learning and improving,” she said. “There is just so much there. I think you have to be busy all your life. I don’t care how you are or what you do. I think you have to have some type of passion.”


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Saanich Peninsula

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Royal Bay Secondary School (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke School District alerts community to coronavirus positive case at Royal Bay secondary

Contact tracing underway after potential COVID-19 exposure Jan. 15

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

NEW CUTLINE Pacific FC fans fill the stands during a game at the former Westhills Stadium
 Starlight Developments has purchased the naming rights from the City of Langford for the next 10 years.(Gazette file photo)

Pacific FC slid into third place in the league after defeating FC Edmonton 1-0 at Westhills Stadium on Saturday. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Langford sells stadium naming rights for $500,000 to Starlight Developments

10-year sponsorship deal largest in the history of Langford, says mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

(Black Press Media file photo)
From arts to environment, nominate your West Shore hero

Nominations for the Goldstream Gazette’s Local Hero awards are open

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read