Article by Becky Dumais
There is one gift that really does keep on giving: volunteerism. When you pledge your time, effort and resources to assist others, the benefits are immeasurable. At a time of year when some of us might feel more fortunate while others need assistance and compassion, there are many ways to act on behalf of others in our community.
The benefits of volunteering are numerous: it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, meet new people, and most of all get to know your community. If volunteering is something you’ve thought about doing, it may be easiest to start with a friend or someone you know who’s already involved. “It’s a great way to start – just by going with someone else,” says Ann Coburn, director of Volunteer Halton. “But we also work with new volunteers; we ask them what their interests are and what they would like to learn, and from that we go through our database and see what’s available.”
Volunteering is also a great way for families to spend time together. Many grandparents volunteer with their grandchildren in some way, and parents also use this time of year to teach their children the importance of giving back to others, notes Coburn. “That’s what I find happens most during the holiday season, is that parents want to show their children how fortunate they are by asking them to help others in need.” Coburn stresses that we should not think of helping the needy as a once-a-year activity; the best way to give back is to adopt a program or family and support them year round. Food banks are always in need of donations, especially toiletries, which Coburn says is a huge, often overlooked need
Keeping fed and clothed is a basic necessity, especially as it gets colder. “Hats, mitts, scarves and winter coats are a huge need right now as we move into the winter months,” says Coburn. If corporations are considering donations, she encourages them to donate brand new items of clothing with the tags still on (minus the price tags). “Just because you’re on assistance, doesn’t mean you have to wear everything used,” she states.
Recognizing that our community is more culturally diverse is also important when making food donations. “Not everybody’s going to have turkey at Christmas; not everybody’s going to celebrate the same way as we have in the past,” explains Coburn. “Please be aware when you’re out looking for items to give to the food banks that you also include some diverse food choices.”
Volunteering is give and take: you give your time to a cause or program, and what you take back is fulfillment, awareness and even new life skills. “There’s really a lot of learning and education that happens when you get out and get involved,” says Coburn. “Without volunteers, a community would implode.”
To contact Volunteer Halton, visit volunteerhalton.ca
Did You Know?
In 2010, there were an estimated 235,000 volunteers in Halton – a higher percentage of the population than both the national and provincial averages. Based on a 40 hour work week, this is equivalent to 23,000 full-time jobs in the community.
How to Get Involved:
Halton Women’s Place: Holiday Hampers / Volunteers
Halton Children’s Aid Society: Seasonal Program
Kerr Village: Toys for Tots Campaign
Salvation Army, Community & Family Services: Toys, Gifts, Food Hampers & Sponsorship / Christmas Kettle Campaign Volunteers
Acts of Kindness Network: Holiday Gift Drive
Fareshare Food Bank: Donations of Food or Cash
Partnership West Food Bank: Donations of Food or Cash
Kerr Street Ministries: Christmas Wonders & Beyond Program, Donations of Food or Money