Annette Whitehead has spent her life helping others.
Annette Whitehead – who turns 80 on Nov. 17 – continues to devote herself to helping others. Born in Winnipeg, but raised since infancy in Vancouver, her volunteer career started with her being a candy striper in her teens.
Over the years, Annette has served in myriad capacities for various organizations. Her only absence from local community work was during her three-and-a-half years of living in Sweden, immediately after her marriage and the birth of her first child, a son, Sidney.
Upon her return to Vancouver, Annette gave birth to her second child, a daughter, Sally. Together, Annette and her husband Jacob (z’l) raised their children and, thanks to Annette being a “stay-at-home mom,” she also raised half the neighbourhood’s children, who made the Whitehead home their meeting place. To this day, many of her children’s friends, now with children of their own, keep in touch with her via Facebook and Skype, still addressing her as “Mrs. Whitehead,” as they did when they were kids.
Throughout her years as the anchor of her family’s home life, Annette took on babysitting, both as a source of income and on a volunteer basis for families in crisis. Once both her children went off to university and on to successful careers in finance and law, Annette started accepting home-stays, overseas students who were visiting Canada to master English. She hosted home-stays from 1993 until 2014. Many of the students have kept in touch with her and consider her their “Canadian mom.”
Sadly, Annette became a widow 13 years ago, but she has retained a busy life. These days, she enjoys spending a great deal of time with her two granddaughters, Raya and Lilah. As well, she holds positions on the boards of several organizations and participates in volunteer activities on an almost daily basis.
Annette is a trustee on the board of Jewish Women International, B.C. chapter (JWI-BC), and is co-chair of JWI-BC’s Noah’s Ark Project, which provides rear-facing infant car seats to 17 hospitals, organizations and institutions in the province, for working poor and refugee families, as well as several Ministry of Children and Families offices. In her co-chair position, Annette serves as a JWI-BC chapter liaison with social workers at several hospitals with respect to the delivery of the car seats and other baby items, as needed.
Every year since its inception by JWI-BC in the 1980s until the program was terminated last year, Annette was one of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day volunteers at BC Children’s Hospital, delivering refreshments, snacks and homemade baking to doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, as well as to the parents of young patients. Annette still sends out e-announcements to JWI-BC’s membership – congratulatory messages on births, engagements, weddings and achievements, as well as speedy recovery wishes and, sadly, condolences.
Annette currently sits on the Kitsilano Community Centre’s board, as well as on the seniors board and the seniors committee. As the goods and welfare secretary, she has volunteered for a number of years to send out get-well cards via standard mail to senior members.
At Kerrisdale Community Centre, Annette sits on the senior board and also volunteers as a photographer for special events. Her pictures have been published as part of the centre’s advertising – on the cover and inside the community-wide seasonal program schedules published twice a year. In addition, she volunteers in setting up for special luncheons.
Annette is a past board and committee member for both the program and youth committees at Marpole Community Centre. For many years, she volunteered at the centre’s yearly Marpole Festival Days, working with children and their families, as well as taking photographs for in-house publication.
In the past, Annette has served as volunteer treasurer, both for JWI-BC chapter and for David Livingston Elementary School’s parents committee. For a number of years, she volunteered as a library assistant – at McBride Elementary and Vancouver Technical schools – and also helped slower readers at several Vancouver schools with their reading skills.
Maintaining her interest in health-related activities, Annette volunteers yearly for the Vancouver Sun Run and the HBC Children’s Hospital fundraising run, and has worked in registration, childcare and catering positions for both charities. For several years, she volunteered for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of B.C. & Yukon, leading patients recovering from strokes on neighbourhood walks, with the purpose of improving their ability to walk and talk.
Wishing Annette the happiest of birthdays and thanking her for all she has done for the Jewish and general communities. May she live until 120.