What do volunteers add to the community?
“In a word, everything,” says Dan Driedger, the resource development director for Mennonite Central Committee Ontario.
The MCC, along with many other community organizations, will be taking time to remember their volunteers during national volunteer appreciation month this April.
Driedger said he couldn’t separate MCC from its volunteers, who help in every aspect of the organization.
“I can’t imagine MCC without our volunteer base, they so strongly support everything we do,” he said.
Just one of many community groups who rely on volunteers to make the services they offer possible, MCC’s thrift shops and events are run entirely by volunteers.
Woolwich Community Services, which provides resources such as the food bank in the township, also relies largely on volunteers.
WCS executive director Don Harloff and other staff at the WCS showed their volunteers how much they were appreciated Apr. 13 at their annual appreciation event, titled ‘Life is a carnival.’ The circus-themed night held at Lions Hall in Elmira featured games, activities and food for all WCS volunteers to enjoy in appreciation of their hard work for the organization.
“We have 148 volunteers, that’s a lot of people helping us out,” Harloff said. The hours volunteers put in at WCS equal the same as three full-time positions, or about 6,000 hours per year.
“It’s a tremendous comment on the community as a whole that they get involved as they do and help a lot of different agencies in town,” Harloff said.
By pitching in and helping out Harloff says the large volunteer base in Woolwich Township does more than just help organizations to function.
“Volunteers create a real sense of the community as a caring community,” he said. “It really starts at that level of being able to look at neighbours, friends and family and being able to support them in a really meaningful way. It creates the soul of the community to be able to do that.”
In addition to hosting a carnival for its volunteers, WCS chose to recognize two special supporters of the organization this week. Iris Brindley was honoured as the WCS volunteer of the year award for her many hours logged with the organization, including her yearly involvement assisting low-income families with their tax returns.
“We can call Iris at pretty much any time – she’s just a delightful lady,” said Harloff.
Home Hardware head office in St. Jacobs was also honoured by WCS, who nominated the company for the business community partner award at the Volunteer Impact Awards hosted by the Volunteer Action Centre in Kitchener.
The business was nominated in recognition of the volunteer hours staff put in at various community organizations, as well as the support the business lends financially to community projects.
“They do a tremendous amount of work in the community for a lot of different organizations and charities, so we were really pleased they won,” Harloff said.