Retiring after 45 years with M2/W2 in Abbotsford

Bernie Martens began as a volunteer with the organization in 1970

Bernie Martens with his wife Dolores.

Bernie Martens with his wife Dolores.

An Abbotsford man is retiring after 45 years with the M2/W2 Association.

Bernie Martens, described as a “quiet unassuming man who has exemplified genuine compassion and love,” began serving with M2/W2 (Man to Man, Woman to Woman) as a volunteer in 1970 during his university years and continued until now as a staff member.

M2/W2 is a Christian-based organization founded in 1966 whose services include a prisoner visitation program.

Martens recalls his first prison visit as “an unforgettable evening.”

While in the hallway waiting to see his M2 match, he watched two guards running down the hallway to the infirmary, shouting “Stand back!” as they held up the hands of an inmate with slashed wrists.

This experience did not deter Martens, but encouraged him to respond to the loneliness, pain and suffering of those in prisons.

In one case, Martens worked closely for more than 30 years with a prisoner/parolee and offered support through his multiple incarcerations.

Martens visited the prisoner in over six different institutions, extending friendship without judgment.

Over the years, the prisoner’s family and friends abandoned him but Marten did not.

“He is a human who is in need of respect, dignity, opportunity and right to live within the capacity that he has,” he said.

Today, this inmate is in his 60s and has become involved in community work.

Over the years, Martens has provided leadership to hundreds of volunteers and helped equip them to offer support to the inmate community.

He also stepped in as interim executive director in 2014.

“We have depended on his personal experience, love for volunteers, dynamic faith walk and his professionalism,” said Raymond Robyn, executive director of M2/W2.

“His servant leadership and years of service has laid a good foundation for M2/W2 to grow and develop into the future.”

For more information about the organization, visit m2w2.com.