Last October, Harrison Thorne returned to Canada from his deployment in the Bahamas. After providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid with GlobalMedic, Harrison wanted to continue helping the people around him. While looking into different volunteer organizations, he came across Shelter Movers Vancouver and knew he found a cause he could get behind.
Since joining Shelter Movers, Harrison has helped provide free moving and storage services for women and children experiencing gender-based violence in the Lower Mainland. His role as a lead mover has him directing moves, ensuring everything goes according to plan, and being the main point of contact for clients. Here’s what a typical move day looks like for Harrison.
Before the Move
Harrison starts his day around 8 a.m. with a cup of coffee, breakfast, and either some meditation or light reading. This helps him calm any nerves he might have before a move.
Around 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., he looks over the move itinerary for the day and any accompanying lead mover notes. Typically, he would have gone through the itinerary the night before, but reading them over again helps him confirm any details that could be important later on.
He also prepares the supplies necessary for the move. He brings the provided lead mover pack, which contains client waivers, volunteer waivers, and COVID-19 supplies such as sanitizer and masks, as well as snacks and water for the team.
The meetup time and location for a move can vary, but Harrison usually hits the road an hour ahead to make sure he gets there on time, listening to music on the way. He often doubles as a driver as well, so depending on the itinerary, he might be scheduled to pick up the vehicle rental before he meets with the team.
During the Move
Once he gets to the predetermined location, he goes over the relevant emails once more to ensure everything is going according to the plan. After all the move team members arrive, he delivers the debriefing, goes over the protocols, gets the necessary waivers signed, communicates with the client, and then the team gets to work.
During the move, Harrison maintains a line of communication between himself, his move team members, the move coordinator who planned the move, and the client. He plays an integral role by making sure all the moving parts of the move are falling into place. There can often be multiple locations involved and he’s responsible for making sure everyone is getting to the right place at the right time.
Harrison volunteers on all moves, from low-risk furniture moves to security-escorted urgent exits. “I feel like a big reason I’ve stuck around with Shelter Movers is because every move is so different from the last,” Harrison says.
When working with clients, he makes sure their comfort and safety are the top priority. “It’s an intense situation for everyone, but it’s going to be so much more intense for the client,” Harrison says. “I always let them know their safety is the priority no matter what and that we’ll do everything we can to get in, get their stuff out, and do as much as we can as safely as possible.”
Depending on the move, there’s a chance the team may encounter tense situations and meet push back from an abuser. Lead mover training, along with experience, has helped Harrison keep a level head and practise neutrality in these circumstances. “Even when you’re around someone you definitely don’t see eye to eye with, it’s important to realize that there’s a lot more at stake than just yourself. You’re here to be a presence that is calming and secure for both your team and the client.”
Harrison has experienced some truly great moments working with clients. “At Shelter Movers, we do whatever we can to get our clients what they need and to get out safely. Initially, you can see the walls people put up because it’s such a stressful situation, but once they start picking through their things, you can see the change in confidence and the rush of emotion that comes over them,” Harrison remarks.
Harrison often works with families on different moves and considers it a rewarding aspect of volunteering. “Anytime you help out a family, you really understand the impact you make down the line for their future — that’s my favourite part, for sure.”
After the Move
Once the client’s belongings are where they need to be, the team finishes the day by dropping off the rental vehicles. After that, Harrison heads home, rewards himself with a big meal, and takes it easy for the rest of the day. He also spends some time reflecting on the move. “It’s great to have the opportunity to help people who’ve really needed it, and they were really appreciative.”
For anyone considering joining the network of volunteers at Shelter Movers, Harrison has this to say:
“The team at Shelter Movers has made leaps and bounds in the past couple of years of operation, accomplishing more than 200 moves, getting the organization off the ground, and helping so many people in that short space of a time. It’s an organization that you can definitely trust, one working towards an amazing cause. You are working with a bunch of people who are ready to help and are always in very good spirits.”
Are you interested in volunteering with Shelter Movers? Check out this page to get involved.