After decades toiling in organizations from non-profit to public and private, Dick Vollet has found his calling.
Vice-president of mountain operations during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and until recently president and CEO of Vancouver’s Streetohome Foundation, Dick Vollet is continuing his service to the province’s most marginalized and vulnerable populations as president of the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation.
What is your first priority at St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation?
The most pressing issue for me would be to work very closely with the hospital board to establish what our renewal really looks like, that’s really my number one priority. What are the plans, how are we going to rebuild and redo the hospital on the current site?
At this point, do you have any idea what that upgrade and redevelopment will entail?
There are some preliminary plans in place. Some of the things I think we have been talking about openly is the seismic upgrading – the infrastructure upgrading that’s required for a hospital of this age. Obviously, we want to increase the efficiency of the hospital for the staff and for the doctors, but also bring the hospital into a better facility to serve the community that we live in.
HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives have been a focus for St. Paul’s. Will that continue?
Absolutely it will continue moving forward. Back in the early ’80s, St. Paul’s was the first hospital in British Columbia that served patients with HIV/AIDS. We’re very proud of that first. It’s grown into something that is well renowned and something that I will definitely make sure is on top of mind.
The hospital foundation has a number of community-based fundraising initiatives. Why is it important for the foundation and the community to be so interconnected?
Well, I think it’s a benefit for the community. One of the things that I bring to the chair and the position and the foundation is that I do have very strong connections to the community, whether it be in intercity mental health work, or whether it be the homeless situation in the Downtown Eastside. Many of our patients that come through the emergency doors are from the Downtown Eastside, so we really need to stretch out and engage the community and reach out and become the community’s hospital.
You’ve done a great deal of non-profit work. Is that something you’re personally passionate about?
I’m passionate about making the community a better place to live. Coming to St. Paul’s Hospital and working with the foundation has really allowed for me to plug into all the great work that St. Paul’s does around mental health and addictions and find a way to leverage that to fill some gaps and do some good for the community.
What sets non-profit work apart from the others?
What you’re doing is finding a way to leverage funds, and to do more good in the community. In the not-for-profit world you’re really able to work with the community to raise money and to take care of those large social issues that we see every day, but may turn a blind eye to. What draws me here is the fact that we are making significant changes in the community.
Social media has changed businesses’ ability to connect with communities exponentially. Is that a powerful force to get the message out for not-for-profits?
I believe social media is a very powerful tool if used in the correct way and I think that social media is a way to push a message out. Realistically, Twitter is an ongoing conversation – you need to be willing to respond and talk back to people. Social media is another type of community that we really need to foster.
You were vice-president of mountain operations during the 2010 Olympics. What do you remember most from that time?
A lot of people ask me that and I think that it is some of the teams that I was able to work with. I worked with them closely for a number of years, but I think in the last six months – when we really had all the struggles – we really, really figured out how we work well together. It’s kind of like going to war with someone. You just have that mutual understanding and respect for one another, and I think that’s the most important thing that I took away.
You’re a lifetime resident of Vancouver. Had you ever been into St. Paul’s Hospital before accepting this position?
I had. I had been in there a couple of times to visit some friends who were patients. And it’s a little-known fact, but my mom was quite excited when she found out that I was going to be in charge of the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation because I was born with a hole in my heart, and she said I was a patient of St. Paul’s. [She] said I got excellent care when I was two years old. I still have a soft spot for St. Paul’s, mainly because I’ve seen them help so many of my friends and family. That really endears me to the hospital.
Is your family doing anything special this holiday season?
Interestingly enough, we’ve been away for the last two Christmases visiting family. My wife’s family is from Argentina. But this year we’ll be close to home. We have a lot of immediate family here and we usually rotate around like most people do, different houses with turkey and ham and everything else. We’ll be having a very close-to-home Christmas this year and I look forward to spending it with friends and family.