Linda Chernenkoff believes the COVID-19 pandemic is filled with silver linings.
“It really compels us to realize we have this window of time and to take nothing for granted,” she says. “Each day, we can make a meaningful difference if we reflect on what activities really matter to a quality of life.”
One of the ways Chernenkoff makes a difference is through her involvement with Things, a volunteer-run boutique that sells consigned and donated items in support of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
The shop at 913 Corydon Ave., which was founded by the RWB volunteer committee in 1967, sells vintage and contemporary collectibles, including china, crystal, jewelry, artwork, linens and furniture.
Chernenkoff, a former educator and superintendent of the Louis Riel School Division, started volunteering at Things in November 2014 after a colleague suggested she might enjoy it during retirement.
“It welded the opportunity to support the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the ability to try something new… and the opportunity to soak up a beautiful atmosphere walking around looking at objects people donate to us or consign with us,” the 65-year-old says .
In addition to helping with day-to-day duties at the shop, Chernenkoff has served as the volunteer committee’s vice-president, president and recording secretary.
Chernenkoff most enjoys working with customers. Interacting with someone who is donating or selling items that once belonged to a deceased loved one is particularly meaningful.
“You have a chance to help someone who’s experiencing loss and may have had a real tough time parting with these things realize even though they’re experiencing a loss, they have chosen to be generous,” she says. “It’s nice to work at a place and do something where you know things are going to good homes.”
Chernenkoff was in her 20s when she started attending RWB performances. The experiences people can have patronizing institutions such as the RWB are important, she says.
“It’s easy for some skeptics to dismiss the arts as esoteric, but I don’t think anything will ever match the benefit humans get from sitting in a space together watching something that, because of the music, the choreography and the commitment of the dancer , becomes a community event and source of inner calm.”
The RWB values the volunteer committee’s work, says Kristine Betker, director of development.
“Our success is based on the support of the community, so knowing these volunteers willingly give up their time during the day and on evenings and weekends to help the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is really a boost of confidence for us and a demonstration of their pride in the city,” Betker says. “The end result of their contribution is a donation to the RWB, which helps fund the art you see on the stage.”
Chernenkoff attributes her interest in volunteering to the influence of her parents and husband and her own commitment to gratitude. True happiness, she believes, comes from doing things that engage one’s skills and that are meaningful.
“Many of the things that matter most are things you can’t plan for,” she says. “Just live in the moment, because that’s how you can be your best self.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at Things or donating items to the shop can visit thingsforrwb.com.
If you know a special volunteer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.