Volunteer Stories

Volunteer Stories

United Way Waterloo Region Communities Story

United Way Waterloo Region Communities Story

The power of many
Joan Fisk, C.E.O of the United Way Waterloo Region Communities on The Value of One the Power of Many

“Corporate social responsibility is the DNA of a large successful company “, says Joan Fisk, CEO of the United Way Waterloo Region Communities. Joan sat down with Jane Hennig, Executive director of the Volunteer Action Centre to discuss the theme that goes along with the 20th anniversary of National Volunteer Week. “The Value of One, the Power of Many”.

She continues by saying, that if you don’t engage your employee base, it reflects on your work culture, so the reason for having the engagement is to secure the success of your organization and the people you attract to work there.

In a unique perspective on corporate social responsibility, Joan mentioned that employees are from all walks of life. From the outside, things may look fine, but behind closed doors, employees may be dealing with things like spousal abuse, physical or emotional trauma and they don’t know how to help themselves. Through volunteering, helping people who are in situations similar to their own, they can identify how they can help themselves. An employee taking control and getting their life back on track effects the work being done solely based on the fact that confidence is boosted, stress levels deplete, and you are left with someone who wants to help others in the same situation they were in.

Fisk is truly passionate about the contribution of volunteering. For her, growing up, volunteering was just something you did. Whether it was helping a neighbour, something you did through Brownies or Girl Guides or even through your church. As a girl, she worked with other members of her congregation making quilts to send to Africa in the basement of the church. She laughed looking back saying “I don’t know why we were sending quilts to Africa of all things, it’s hot there.”, But the point was to instil in us to give back.

Fisk says that with everything that is going in the world, people aren’t getting the face-to-face connections that they did before, and not only since the pandemic started. People are lonely and volunteerism is a way to combat that. It’s a an opportunity to fight isolation. It’s helping people that can’t help themselves through a hot meal or maybe even through helping with math homework. “At the United Way, we have volunteers adjudicating grants. If we didn’t have their perception, insight into community and diversity of experiences, the funds we raise wouldn’t be given as fairly. Volunteers look through all the applications and really develop an understanding of the issues our community. We also have volunteers calling someone who donated money to say thank you. Those thankyou phone calls sometimes go to seniors who have contributed. They are so happy to have the conversation and often don’t want to hang up.”

Volunteering brings value to peoples lives and when you combine the work of all those volunteers whether individually or in a corporate group it really has the Power to change our community. Fisk wrapped up a very intriguing conversation, she finished with “So not only is volunteering about the Value of One the Power of Many, but also about finding out the tough stuff and finding the good, and the heart and soul that comes with volunteering”.

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Serap's Story

Serap's StoryThe value of one
It was a warm day in July 2020. My neighbourhood was quiet. Few people were walking on the street. The traffic on Victoria Road was also less than usual. I was sitting by myself in my garden. Due to Covid-19, no one was outside. We had been staying at home since Canada’s first Covid-19 death in March. I was in a panic for the first two months and was constantly looking at the news, trying to understand what the virus was and What were its effects. However, as the weather got warmer, I started to spend more time in the garden. I started to wonder about my neighbours and how they were dealing with this situation? Did they need any help?

Finally, on a warm day in July, I decided to knock on my neighbour’s doors. I rang the doorbell of about ten houses that day. A few of the doors did not open. But I met with those who did, from a two-meter distance. Some conversations were long, some short. We talked about what my neighbours missed and needed on these difficult days. An elderly neighbour, who lived alone, complained about not being able to clean her house. I offered to help, and she accepted! We arranged a day, and I showed up. Another neighbour said she missed eating out at the restaurant. I offered to set up a dining table for her in my garden. I prepared a vegetarian dinner on the balcony. Conversation and food have helped us establish a friendship.

My other neighbours were very happy that I had knocked on their door and asked how they were doing. Whenever we meet on the road now, we stop and chat. This epidemic made me meet my neighbours. Now, I have two good friends in my neighbourhood.

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Wazee Senior`s Group

Wazee Senior's Group

The value of one
An older Black couple (Daniel and Shirley N) who enjoyed outdoor activities and engagement with their peers pre pandemic realized that KMFW had launched and was supporting Black identifying persons. Shirley reached out to KMFW and asked if she could volunteer and engage older adults in the region- recruit as well for virtual engagement and programming.

The power of many
Shirley N, our senior mentor and volunteer has been able to work with our Cultural Group Facilitators to run one successful virtual group program for Black seniors in our region. At 82 years old, she is helping with our second group for Black seniors in the region- with the second one (in collaboration with Carizon Family and Community Services) also involving new comer seniors who are not only Black identifying but of various racial identities.

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Allyson's Hildebrand project

Allyson's Story

The value of one
As a recent graduate and a student in a teacher education program, online learning left me with a lot of spare time. I knew that I was very privileged to continue to have all of my basic needs met during the pandemic, while others in the community were not so fortunate. I wanted to give back to my community and began volunteering at the House of Friendship as a donation organizer. In giving my time, I got back so much more in return: friendships and relationships with other volunteers, a sense of belonging and purpose, and the satisfaction that comes along with a clean donation storage space.

The power of many
When the fire at the Inn of Waterloo left so many of the men at the shelter displaced, I was happy to help to organize an outpour of donations from the community. I was inspired and motivated by the leadership of the Volunteer Manager at the House of Friendship, Jennifer, who began organizing efforts right away. With the help of the community, we were able to completely restock our shelter space with coats, pants, shirts, socks, and toiletries and ensure the men were able to replace essential belongings left behind during the fire. The multitude of items donated by individuals and organizations left me in awe at the generosity, empathy, resourcefulness, and love in our community.

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Gazmend's Story

Gazmend Story

The value of one
Gazmend enthusiastically joined Community Support Connections last June during the beginning of the pandemic to volunteer with our Meals on Wheels program. New to Canada with his family (wife and 3 daughters) he was determined to help any way he could during this critical time for the most vulnerable in our community. Gazmend previously worked for the UN Doctors without Borders in community policing and is vocal to everyone he meets about his volunteering role. He exemplifies how one person can make an impact on so many.

The power of many
His role with Community Support Connections didn't stop there. Gazmend very strongly believes that businesses should support local organizations so he has been very vocal in getting businesses to support us. Gazmend has been successful in getting door prizes from Waterloo Brewing to support our Volunteer appreciation events. Recently, Ms. Michalofsky, a teacher from Williamsburg Public School had her 'Mindful Me' class write/draw inspirational cards that went out to our Meals on Wheels clients! We are so grateful for all Gazmend's efforts!

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Judy's Story

Grocery store isleThe value of one

I cared for my mother. The most important thing for her was to make sure she had the food she liked every week. Grocery shopping was something she loved to do when she could. When she couldn't do it, I did. I know how she looked forward to her fresh produce and groceries every week. Volunteering as a list shopper (escort shopper pre-covid), gives me the satisfaction that my clients get groceries every week.

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Daniela's Story

Daniela Montoya

The value of one
As a former student, now alumni, of Carizon's Pathways to Education program, Daniela was drawn to volunteer as a tutor to help support high school youth achieve academic success. "Pathways taught me that any child can succeed if they are provided with the right resources, and the support of the community. Because of Pathways, I learned that my purpose is to help and empower immigrant children and their families." Daniela is currently attending Laurier and feels this is primarily due to the support, love and patience from all staff and volunteers with the Pathways program.

The power of many
"If you are looking to volunteer in an environment that is filled with the love of education, respect, and inclusivity, Carizon is the place for you. Our actions now can contribute to the well-being and success of others." Daniela has been volunteering with us since 2018. She has tutored high school youth and, most recently, provided virtual homework support to elementary children. As a Volunteer & Student Coordinator, I always tell volunteers they may not see the impact they have on those whose lives they touch. Hopefully one of Daniela’s tutors is reading this and can see the tremendous impact they had on Daniela. She has followed her goals, sees the value and knows the impact tutors have.

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Helen's Story

Helen's Story

The value of one
Helen has written personal messages to Langs participants, many of whom she doesn't know. These letters were to lift people's spirits during the pandemic so that they didn't feel alone. These letters were well received and helped the morale and outlook for many seniors shut in due to the pandemic.

The power of many
These letters encouraged participants to pay forward this same “thinking of you” morale booster cards which they began to write and share with their family, friends and neighbours.

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Kathy's Story

Kathy's Story

The value of one
Kathy created a Facebook filter that people can impose in the background of their selfie photos to bring awareness to volunteerism and thank our volunteers for their efforts during National Volunteer Week.

The power of many
By sharing these instructions and setting up the Facebook filter with our volunteers, participants, clients and patients we can create a huge buzz during National Volunteer Week. The hope is to have everyone update their Facebook profile photo with this National Volunteer Week background filter where they can choose what Langs site they want in the background along with the pink and blue colour schemes that represent National Volunteer Week).

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Pauline's Story

Pauline's Story

The value of one
Pauline enters all volunteer hours for each of our volunteers in our online database, to update our volunteer hours for their involvement.

The power of many
Volunteers are able to review how many volunteer hours that they have contributed over the years involved in supporting our organization. This encourages volunteers to continue volunteering and be more engaged with our organization and to inspire new volunteers to support our organization for years to come.

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Shubham's Story

Shubham's Story

The value of one
Shubham works with the youth council to promote programs, services and volunteer opportunities that would appeal to youth. The youth Council did community work such as putting on virtual programs and promoting safe study places. Shubham, although relatively new to the youth council, demonstrated strong interest and initiative by getting involved in numerous virtual programs as a co-facilitator. As a virtual volunteer he volunteered from home to help co-facilitate Langs STEAM and Kitchen Kreations programs. He also worked with staff to be a part of funding presentations and conversations with other youth in Cambridge that was organized by Idea Exchange.

The power of many
His work inspired other high school volunteers from other schools to join and share information about Langs youth programs and services that increased registration. His fresh ideas and strong involvement brought a renewed interest to some of the other youth council members, who were then inspired to take on more roles and to share their own ideas and act on their own initiatives.

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Tina's Story

Tina's Story

The value of one
Tina is an exceptional educator who learned about ToastyToes Waterloo Region a few years ago. She volunteered to host a collection with her family, friends, and students/families.

The power of many
Tina shared the message of ToastyToes at her school, connecting it to their school values around Empathy and Gratitude. Tina invited ToastyToes in to present at a MacGregor School assembly - an action that led her whole school to follow Tina's lead. Her action taught students that one person can make a difference, and challenged them to join her in making an impact for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in our Region. Together Tina, her colleagues and their school families have raised hundreds of dollars to buy socks for folks at risk.

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Scott's Story

Loading a car with boxesThe value of one
Scott and his son Matt were looking for opportunities to get involved in the community. They were able to help out at the House of Friendship kitchen preparing food for the men's shelter. They then delivered the food to the shelter. It was a great way to do something together, meet friendly staff, and help out one the most vulnerable populations in our community.

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Verlyn’s Story

Verlyn's StoryValue of One
Verlyn has the gift of hospitality. She truly loves to make people feel special in any way they can. One way she does this is by making homemade jam for people, sometimes she gives them to people to make them feel seen and thank them for their volunteerism, and sometimes she uses it as a fundraiser for organizations, such as Bridges to Belonging. She also has the gift of making other people that she works with feel seen, and helping them recognize gifts that they did not know they had. She is also an extremely loyal person who does not give up when she is working on a goal on behalf of our organization.

Power of Many
For years Verlyn has worked behind the scenes to put together Bridges to Belonging’s Future Planning Workshops and Webinars, where countless families have been given information about issues like wills and the Registered Disability Savings plan to help build safe and secure futures for their loved ones. She has also recruited many volunteers with the spirit of helping others shine mentioned above, that have been invaluable in helping Bridges to Belonging events succeed. Verlyn’s tenacity and hospitality is exactly what a small organization like ours needs in order to help as many families as we can!

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Richard’s Story

Richard's StoryValue of One
On his 74th birthday, Richard was on a Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region build site helping to construct his 74th home for local families. A HabitatWR volunteer for over 15 years, Richard explains that having a half dozen home owners, with whom he worked and who greeted him each day, is the most gratifying reason why he volunteers.

Power of Many
When Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region was able to begin accepting volunteers on their build site again after a shutdown due to COVID, its core volunteers, most retired individuals from the community, were quick to respond. When asked why they returned to volunteer during a pandemic, the resounding response was because families needed to get into their homes. These volunteers have made it possible for HabitatWR to continue to welcome families into safe, decent, affordable housing, and they are at the heart of what we do. The Value of One individual hammering, framing, painting, and drywalling leads to The Power of Many people to build a home.

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Charles Story

Charles's StoryValue of One
Charles is an amazing volunteer and ambassador for the Kidney Foundation of Canada, he is a member of the Local Waterloo Wellington and District Chapter Board and on the National Board as well. Charles isn't just a volunteer but he lives with Kidney Disease, even when he isn't at his best he attends walks to share his story and spreading the word about The Kidney Foundation and Kidney Disease. Charles' moto for life is "Keep Bangin" and he does it in a big way!!

Power of Many
This year Charles supported our Six Degree Challenge as an Ambassador, participating in radio interviews and putting together videos to share on his story on many social media platforms. Charles freely shares his trials and tribulations over the years with kidney disease and other health issues with such a positive out look, he is truly an inspiration. The Waterloo Wellington & District Chapter is grateful for the commitment to the renal community and on a personal level he inspires me to be a better person. Thank you for your consideration.

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Emma’s Story

Emma`s StoryThe value of one
Emma moved to the Waterloo Region not knowing very many people. She wanted to get to know the community and had a passion for animals. Emma reached out to volunteer as a Puppy Raiser in 2019 and has been a huge help ever since. Emma often gets together with other Puppy Raisers to support the training of other dogs. She has also helped out with the transport of 2 pups from other training schools from BC to Ontario.

The power of many
Emma’s willingness to help transport puppies supports NSD and many other schools who have partnered up to create a breeding cooperative. This cooperative gives many North American service dog schools access to diverse genetics so they can breed dogs with great health and temperament. All of which would not be possible without volunteers like Emma who help us transfer the dogs between schools. Emma’s support saves NSD time and money so we can focus on placing more life-changing dogs. She also shares our mission on a daily basis and encourages more people to support NSD.

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Erica’s Story

Erica's StoryThe value of one
Erica started her journey with NSD back in 2018 raising NSD Coco. As Coco went off to graduate as an Autism Service Dog, Erica was onto her next journey as a new vet school student. Erica continued to raise wonderful Service Dogs while using her animal health care knowledge to volunteer with our breeding team.

The power of many
Together the breeding team was able to purposefully breed NSD Yasha and welcome two new future service dogs into our program. Erica’s support allowed NSD to continue to run our breeding program while we hired and trained a new breeding coordinator. Erica has also been a wonderful ambassador for NSD while on campus and has helped inspire other students to support us as volunteers or donors.

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Paul’s Story

DogThe value of one
Paul is a volunteer Doggy Carpool Driver for National Service Dogs. He makes sure our dogs in training can get to and from NSD for their University Training. Paul is always patient and kind when picking up the University dogs and a huge help driving 3 nights a week. Paul generously gives his time and says he will always remember driving NSD Dusty.

The power of many
Since Paul volunteers to drive the dogs to training everyday they are able to be placed with other volunteers throughout their training so that they get extra care and attention during nights and weekends. This also means that NSD staff has more time to work with the dogs every day because they don’t have to go pick the dogs up every morning. Paul’s contribution allows NSD to place the best service dogs possible and allows Canandians to reach their full potential.

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Rosemary’s Story

Rosemary's StoryThe value of one
Rosemary learned about the power of Service Dogs through her career as a nurse. Once retired, Rosemary set out to help raise Service Dogs like the ones she met throughout her nursing career. She came to National Service Dogs and took on numerous roles including raising her first puppy NSD Beauty, puppy sitting, driving multiple dogs to daily training, and now adult raising NSD Dusty.

The power of many
Rosemary has set many dogs up for success which in turn helped other volunteers and trainers once they began training with the dogs. As Rosemary took on dogs for short puppy sitting stints she gave our raisers time for family, work or rest and the dogs continue to get the care and training they need on a daily basis. Once the dogs are mature enough Rosemary helps get them to NSD every day so they can work with our trainers. Her contribution is part of a larger team effort to train the very best service dogs possible.

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Taylor’s Story

DogThe value of one
Taylor started volunteering with NSD as a Puppy Raiser in 2019 when she picked up NSD Linus. Within a month of Taylor bringing him home she set up an Instagram account so that she was able to capture his training journey and share it with a broader audience. She has grown an Instagram following on not one but two accounts that showcase the journey of training a service dog.

The power of many
Due to her activity and positive messaging on Social Media, NSD’s mission has been shared to larger audiences including on the Ren’s Pet Depot page numerous times. This has allowed many more people to learn about who National Service Dogs is and what we do. Now more than ever most of our support comes from online avenues and Taylor is helping us further our reach immensely.

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Kaitlin’s Story

Boxes being carriedThe value of one
Kaitlin works for RBC within the Group Advantage team and took part in the Canada wide challenge to donate the most hygiene kits. Kaitlin is a team player which compelled her to volunteer, but knowing that the hygiene kits were going to help those in her community made her and her husband want to give more. Kaitlin says volunteering helped her to step back from the negativity surrounding the pandemic and really spend time with her family to shop for and build the kits knowing they were able to spread some joy within the community. Kaitlin and her family were able to donate 12 hygiene kits, which were donated to shelters in the region.

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Carly’s Story

loading a carThe value of one
At her job working in the charitable sector, Carly developed a passion for supporting different causes. When she first heard about Shelter Movers, and the work the organization does to provide women and children fleeing abuse with free moving and storage services, Carly immediately knew that it was work she wanted to contribute to as a formal volunteer experience. Carly is responsible for communicating with referral agencies wanting to use Shelter Movers' service, assisting clients transition to the move coordination stage, and providing support for other Intake Coordinators in the chapter.

The power of many
Carly was part of the team that helped established Shelter Movers in the Waterloo Region, and took on the role of the Intake Coordination Supervisor. Her work as a volunteer has made a direct impact in the lives of many clients that use Shelter Movers' service.


Abiha’s Story

Abiha's StoryThe value of one
I came to Canada about twenty years ago when I got married. During the first few years, I had no connection with the community that I was living in. I had no clue about social services in the area, so I was unaware of education opportunities, and educational support like OSAP. For about ten years, I was a stay-at-home mother.

When my first child started school, I started volunteering there. I liked volunteering so much. I decided to continue because I was bored with staying home and being a full-time mother for three children. I wanted to do something productive and interact with adults. From there, I started volunteering at community services.

Through volunteering, I learned a lot about the Canadian system and Canadian diversity. I understood more about how my community operates. I met some incredible people who guided me and connected me to resources that helped me to grow and learn. I was able to polish my skills and build my resume. This helped me to get a job that I loved.

I would recommend newcomers consider volunteering in a field that they like and want to learn more about. They can make friends and stop being isolated. They can choose to volunteer as little and much as they want. Volunteering is extremely flexible and can be customized to a person’s lifestyle.

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Asma’s Story

Asma's StoryThe value of one
Before coming to Canada from Jordan, I knew the importance of volunteering. Back in Jordan, volunteering is significant. You cannot graduate from university without completing community service volunteering hours.

So within a few days of coming here, I searched Google for a volunteer organization. Right away I found the Volunteer Action Centre website. I decided to visit and see if there was any chance to volunteer. However, I was new here and did not know about the transportation system of Kitchener. I asked my husband, and he took me to the VAC. First, I saw Diannne's beautiful welcoming smile! I knew that I was in the right spot, so I started volunteering at the VAC. Through volunteering, I have learned a lot about community and social organizations active in Waterloo Region.

I am a social person. When I first arrived in Canada, I had no connection with people in my community. I was feeling lonely and somewhat depressed. After starting to volunteer, I went out, met people, shared my story, and built connections. All my negative feelings and thoughts were gone. I was busy and happy. I knew that I was doing something valuable. I was also building my professional career. Improving my English, learning about the Canadian culture, and building self-confidence to move forward.

If someone is a newcomer, I strongly recommend volunteering. There is no need to stay at home, feeling lonely and depressed. Volunteering is the easiest and safest way to build connections. Volunteer to learn about Canadian culture, develop professional skills, and gain personal benefits, like meeting new people.

 

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