Mayor's Arts Award for Volunteerism

Profile image of Henry Lau

2017 recipient

Henry Lau

Henry Lau is a longtime resident of Renfrew-Collingwood and a strong believer of the positive impacts of community arts. He attended Windermere Community Secondary School, where he led projects that ranged from coordinating the Organic Garden to organizing festivals.

Lau studied at UBC’s Dietetics program and co-founded the Roots on the Roof rooftop garden at UBC’s Student Union Building. Lau’s involvement with various projects and events to boost arts and culture in the City includes his pivotal role in organizing the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival since 2010 and co-founding Renfrew-Collingwood’s first Arts Council. He currently serves as the Vice-President of the Still Moon Arts Society, chairing a number of core organizational committees and spearheading many projects to further the Society’s vision of inspiring vibrant and connected communities by creating art and nurturing a passion for nature.

Past recipients

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Mary Jane Morita


Mary Jane Morita, Mayor's Arts Award for Volunteerism honoreeMary Jane Morita spent 40 years as a lab technologist before pursuing a new path of art studies and community service. Her journey began with a 1000 Origami Crane Project in memory of the victims of Hiroshima.

Later, she joined an Origami Club (P.A.L.M.) formed by artist Joseph Wu and friends. She was the volunteer coordinator for their “Masters of Origami” conference. Since 2005, she has taught origami to teen volunteers and children at the Vancouver International Children’s Festival. She has also taught at the Powell Street, Sakura, and Whistler Children’s Festivals and has held various volunteer roles at the Arts Club Theatre Company, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, Vancouver Art Gallery and Tourism Vancouver. Mary Jane is privileged to work with many volunteers who are also worthy of recognition.

Audrey Zaharichuk


Audrey Zaharichuk is originally from Edmonton and Two Hills, Alberta and worked as an office manager until her retirement.

She now dedicates herself to volunteering because of a strong desire to see the Vancouver arts community thrive.

Audrey has given her time and currently dedicates herself equally to many arts organizations, including:

  • Bard on the Beach
  • Ballet BC
  • Osimous Theatre Company
  • Jericho Arts Centre
  • Carousel Theatre
  • Vancouver International Wine Festival
  • Vancouver Heritage Foundation
  • Tourism Vancouver

Her calendar is filled with plans to see every show in town with her friends.

Audrey is a welcoming and inspiring presence for every organization. Her smile and laugh are contagious and she has a reputation for giving the best hugs in the city!

Gladys Lee


Gladys Lee, 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Volunteerism honouree Gladys Lee was born in Vancouver across from Oppenheimer Park. Her father was Chinese-Canadian and her mother was Cree. When Gladys was younger, she was an active participant in arts and crafts workshops. In her own words, “Instead of looking for trouble, I started going to arts programs. Art saved my life from the street.”

Gladys went on to work in the culinary industry, but she was still passionate about arts and crafts. Since leaving the food industry 10 years ago, she has been volunteering for various Downtown Eastside (DTES) organizations including the DTES Women’s Centre and the Mission Possible Studio. She also hosts arts and crafts activities at her own studio. At Oppenheimer, Gladys also assists with program development, facilitation, and coordination of special events.

Gladys volunteers because she likes it, and it makes her happy to give back to the community.

Merle Smith


2013 Volunteerism Honouree Merle SmithMerle Smith was a founding member of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1977. She identified a need to make the Jericho Beach site accessible to people with disabilities and in 1980 launched the festival’s Disabled Access Committee, which she led for 30 years. Her vision for creating an inclusive outdoor festival became a model widely adopted by festivals and other public events.

Smith came to the festival through her love of music, including piano studies and choral experience in her youth, high school band participation, and early dreams of a career as a jazz flautist.

A now-retired social worker, Smith worked with the BC government as an ombudsman and consultant on the needs of people with disabilities and consulted on accessibility issues for the BC Building Code and many Vancouver buildings, SkyTrain, and BC Place Stadium.

Smith has volunteered with the Vancouver Crisis Centre and the BC Paraplegic Association. She has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations including BC Wheelchair Sports, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Vancouver Resource Centre, Access Transit, and the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. She has helped organize events such as the Access ’81 Conference, Counterattack, and the first Vancouver Disability Arts Exhibition.

Smith continues to work as an accessibility consultant to the Folk Music Festival, BC Building Code and other organizations and initiatives.

Erik Graff


2012 Honouree Erik GraffErik Graff arrived in Canada from Scandinavia 50 years ago. Since volunteerism was not a part of Nordic culture, he was excited to find people giving of themselves to worthy causes. Over the years he became an active volunteer with numerous cultural and charitable events in Vancouver. In his 20 years as a bus driver, Graff enjoyed meeting people and keeping on top of events in the city.

His dedication to volunteerism includes 20 years with the Dragon Boat Festival, 10 years with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, 12 years with the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Scotiabank Dance Centre, the Vancouver Ballet Society, Pride Parade, the Terry Fox Foundation, AIDS Walk for Life, Vancouver International Marathon, and many other worthy causes and organizations.

He realizes that without volunteers, many events simply couldn’t happen. Much of Graff’s time is now dedicated to volunteering as a tour guide for Hostelling International, providing walking tours twice weekly to guests from around the world, which he has done for the past 17 years.

Roy Sumpter


2011 Volunteerism Honouree Roy SumpterRoy Sumpter is widely known by Vancouver audiences and event organizers as "The Man in the Red Jacket", his trademark outfit, having been ubiquitous for the past 20 years at The Cultch, the Fringe Festival, the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival, the Vancouver Museum, the PuSh Festival, Ronald McDonald House, Friends for LIfe, and dozens of other local cultural and charitable events.

Volunteering is 80-year-old Roy's way of staying physically and socially active, and he'll tell you that he wouldn't trade it for a set of golf clubs or a remote control. He often addresses orientation meetings by telling new volunteers, "If you get half as much enjoyment of of this as I have over the years, you'll be back for more." Roy's inspiring mottos is "Volunteers are unpaid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless."

Berry Lou Phillips


2010 Honouree Berry Lou PhillipsBetty Lou Phillips moved to Vancouver from Ontario in 1978 and joined hiking and folk dancing clubs before becoming involved with the artistic scene. She soon became a regular subscriber to the symphony, ballet, theatre, film, jazz, and opera.

Upon retiring in 1997, her yearly travels abroad declined while volunteering expanded to a dozen wonderful festivals, plus year-round office and front-of-house work for many of the arts organizations which she has come to admire.

Providing tourist information for six years at Hostel International was also an enjoyable way to share her enthusiasm for all Vancouver has to offer. It is a pleasure for Betty Lou to give a little of her time back to the arts community which provides so many memorable experiences for all.

The 2010 peer jury was Rob O'Dea and Minna Schendlinger.

Annalies Camfferman


2009 Honouree Annalies CamffermanAnnalies Camfferman was born in the Netherlands and came to Canada with her family at a young age, settling into the Pitt Polder area, where her family was involved in the dairy farming and cheese making business. With a BScN from UBC, the majority of her professional experience has been working in psychiatry at UBC.

Over the years, she has found volunteering in the arts a satisfying complement to her career. One of her early volunteer experiences was at Habitat, an international conference in Vancouver concerned with housing for humanity. Since then most of her projects have been related to architecture and the arts.

Ms Camfferman discovered that Vancouver has endless opportunities for contributing to the arts and that often one project leads to the next. Her most memorable transition was working one evening at the Cultch, where a fellow volunteer suggested helping out at the Opera. After many years of volunteering at the Vancouver East Cultural Center she decided to "push my comfort zone" and now serves on their Board of Directors.

The 2009 peer jury was Rob O'Dea, Minna Schendlinger, and Koralee Tonack.

Rob O'Dea


A long-term board president of the East Side Culture Crawl, Mr O'Dea was born in Newfoundland and raised in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. After graduating from Dalhousie University, he moved to Vancouver and has worked for 19 years with Terra Housing Consultants, where he manages the development of non-profit community-based housing.

Since moving to Vancouver, Rob has sat on more than 25 different volunteer boards and numerous committees in sectors such as housing and cooperatives, local environment, politics, neighbourhoods, and the arts, including the Eastside Culture Crawl. At first a volunteer with the Crawl, he was soon sharing the coordinator role and honing his skills in governance and leadership to establish the Crawl as a not-for-profit society. During Rob’s tenure as board president, the society grew and flourished.

In 2007, he was nominated for the Alliance for Arts & Culture’s Board Member of the Year.

The 2008 peer jury was Sue Cormier, Erik Dierks, Dr. Stephen Drance, Diane Filer, Martha Lou Henley, Susan K.E. Howard, Paul Larocque, Paddy MacLeod, and Donna Spencer.