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For Jan Joyce, serving as a volunteer with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) is like being part of a military operation. And Joyce, 62, should know—she spent 20 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Driving in the hills above the town, she counts the similarities: Advance scouting, planning, logistics, stores, a chain of command and, importantly, good food. Lots of good food.

Joyce, a member of the Meldrum Bay United Church on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, spent 18 years in the Air Force, from 1977-95, before taking up farming.

After retiring from farming, she took a home renovation course and looked for ways to use her skills to help others through groups like Habitat for Humanity and MDS.

Serving in Grand Forks is her sixth time doing MDS since 2017; prior to coming to B.C. she served in Saskatchewan, South Dakota, California and Mississippi.

“I love the spirit of MDS, I don’t need anything more in life.”

— Jan Joyce

“I want to help, to give back,” she said simply about why she volunteers with the organization, which rebuilds and repairs homes for people following disasters in Canada and the U.S. It’s also gratifying to see people get their homes and lives back, she added. “When I see clients being helped, learning that someone cares, it fills me up. I just love it.”

Joyce, who was in Grand Forks for five weeks, tries to do 10-12 weeks of volunteering with MDS each year. But it’s no sacrifice, she noted.  “I get out of it more than I put in.”

This includes making new friends from across North America who are also serving with MDS. “I appreciate the camaraderie,” she added.

“I love the spirit of MDS,” she said. “I don’t need anything more in life.”

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