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The volunteer behind getting financial literacy in the classroom

Posted By Cara Eaton, September 28, 2017
Updated: August 1, 2017

Daniel Rotsztain Fake Development Proposal

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

 

Prakash Amarasooriya is a volunteer with the Toronto Youth Cabinet. He recently succeeded in campaigning to have financial literacy education added to Ontario’s Grade 10 curriculum. Prakash is one of 25 Toronto volunteers recognized with a 2017 Legacy Award for their exceptional contributions. This is his story as a volunteer.

 

Graduate in flux

In 2015, I graduated with a health sciences degree, but around the same time I decided I wanted to go in a different direction. I actually had my eye on business; I saw there was more of a need to drive meaningful change. So, I applied for 170 jobs. Without success. It was discouraging, but I kept going and trusting the process. In January 2016, I stumbled into a job opportunity at TD with no bank experience.

As the same time, I was watching HBO's TV show, The Wire. Season four was all about flaws in the education system, and I saw a lot of parallels to the real world. I had also seen the memes online joking about how young people were taught about things like parabolas but not how to do their own taxes. They felt they had missed out on learning life skills, and I did too. As my work began at TD, I also started to understand the value of financial literacy. What was a savings account? What is a TFSA? I noticed there were a lot of parents who were not financially stable—always in overdraft, or having loans rejected without knowing why. Without help, they would normalize the problem and pass these patterns onto their children. I realized things needed to change from a young age, and that is when I started to link financial literacy to education.

 Around the same time, I knew I wanted to get involved with the City of Toronto. I typed, “young people getting involved in Toronto” into Google and the Toronto Youth Cabinet showed up. The Toronto Youth Cabinet is a semi-autonomous advisory body to the City of Toronto with a space at City Hall.

 

Wheels in motion

I emailed Tom Gleason, Executive Director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet in January 2016 (also a 2017 Legacy Award recipient). I described the gap I saw in financial literacy, and said that I wanted to get involved. They did not yet have anyone for education, so Tom asked if I wanted to be that guy. A working group was then formed to respond to this need.

After joining, I began the research. What was currently being done? What were people saying regarding financial literacy in Canada? I knew that I wanted to see a tangible change, but I also wanted to identify the path of least resistance. So I developed a proposal. I had no templates or experience, just answers to questions I found along the way. Based on my research (and a couple of epiphany moments), I decided that the Grade 10 careers course would be an obtainable measure of success; a foot-in-the-door to start the financial literacy conversation. So my goal was decided—but how do I get this implemented?

 

Campaigning as a volunteer

My first step: connect with the Toronto school boards. I personally emailed each of the trustees, met with them, developed relationships, and asked them to help me advocate for financial literacy. You’d be surprised how willing people are to speak with you, especially if you reach out with respect and genuine curiosity. Eventually, I met with two Provincial curriculum advisors, but it did not go well. They said they had not heard any complaints regarding the current state of financial literacy in schools.

 

Strategy pivot

Despite the government’s discouraging initial reaction, I knew there was a need that the public would support. So I released a petition supporting the proposal on Thanksgiving 2016, gathering 100 names through my personal Facebook. The next day, I sent a press release to key media representatives. Hours later, CityTV called and wanted to interview me. This led to three weeks of media interviews, during which the petition grew and the government changed their stances, agreeing to meet with me again.

On the day of my last scheduled media interview, I was invited to meet with Mitzie Hunter, the new Minister for Education. It was November 1st (fun fact: I forgot it was my birthday that day). My aim was to approach her as cooperatively as possible, positioning a revision to the careers course as a win-win. She had a few questions, but was in full support of the proposal. The one I created—a youth volunteer—with no template. “Did we just win?” Tom and I asked each other as we left the room. We were excited, but wanted to see the results first.

 

A win, but not the end

Two days later, Minister Hunter tweeted, "We’ve heard you Toronto Youth Cabinet. We’ve accepted your proposal". We had won. And since then, the government has met with me to receive feedback on their plan moving forward. Twenty-eight Ontario schools piloted a new course this past spring. The revised course will formally begin in September 2018.

Reflecting, I am happy the government has committed, but there is still much work to be done. I did this for the people who need it, who signed that petition, and who supported the initiative from the beginning. The course is one thing, but peer-to-peer, and parent-to-child conversations are another. Ultimately, the goal was raising consciousness in having these conversations about money management. I continue to attend financial literacy events and spread the message. Last month, I even became a board member—a goal I set for myself after attending a Volunteer Toronto ‘Becoming a Board Member’ workshop—for the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education.

 

My advice to youth

My advice on work/life/volunteer balance? I only do the things that I know I would fight for when I am beyond exhausted. If you see unmet needs in your community, be agile and work with the administration to drive change. Never take no as your final answer: it's just short for “not this way.” I did not know how my proposal would end up; just that I would fight for as long as it took to succeed. When I get older, I always want to be conscious of not underestimating young people, because I have been in the position where people underestimate just how much I can do. 

 

Free Information Sessions!

Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  Career  City of Toronto Volunteers  How to give back  job experience  Legacy Awards  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Teen volunteering  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer  volunteering for youth  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support  Youth Volunteers 

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5 Excellent Reasons To Attend Our Seniors Fair

Posted By Kelly Harbour, Community Engagement Coordinator, July 25, 2017
Updated: July 24, 2017
 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Are you a boomer or a senior? Looking for a great way to give back to your community?

Join us for our free Seniors Volunteer Fair, where you'll meet face-to-face with 25+ non-profits recruiting volunteers like you.
Whatever your age, interests and skills or the amount of time you want to give back there are non-profits that would love your help.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
North York Seniors Centre
21 Hendon Avenue, near Finch & Yonge

Whether you want to plant flowers, deliver meals or read with children, this is a great event for you to attend. Here’s why:

 

1)  Share your skills

You have incredible skills and experience to share. You might have been a teacher, a custodian, a parent or shopkeeper, or you may know how to organize events or cook a meal for 20 people. Whatever skills and experience you’ve gained over the years, there will be non-profits out there who could use your help.

 

2)  Find out about some great non-profits

The non-profits that will be at the Seniors Volunteer Fair are doing great work in the community. This includes Habitat for Humanity, Hospice Toronto, Ernestine’s Shelter, Toronto Botanical Gardens and Toronto City Cultural Events, to name a few. These organizations are building homes, providing end-of-life care, assisting in emergencies, exploring natural beauty and celebrating our city. At the fair, you can find out how to lend a hand and help them with the great things they are doing. Check out our Seniors Volunteer Fair webpage to learn more about which non-profits are attending. 

 

3)  Volunteering leads to endless possibilities

People gain in all sorts of ways from volunteering. Volunteering has been proven to improve people’s physical and mental health, It is also a great way to meet people and make friends. You can learn so much from volunteering about yourself and your community. Volunteering provides a sense of meaning and  impacts the community around you. …. The possibilities are endless.  Check out Colin’s story to learn how volunteering changed his life. 

 

4)  It’s convenient

We are making finding a great volunteer opportunity easy for you! The North York Seniors Centre is two minutes from Finch TTC station. The building is fully accessible. There is parking close by. You’ll be able to meet 25+ great non-profits in your city. All of the organizations are looking for senior volunteers and will be promoting opportunities in North York and across the city. What could be better?

 

5)  Network and meet organizations in person

A volunteer fair is a great way of meeting face-to-face with representatives from the organization. They’ll be able to learn more about you and you’ll be able to ask them questions too. You can find out crucial details like whether they provide TTC tokens, or how much of a commitment they expect, in order to see if the organization is a good fit for you. 

 

So what are you waiting for? We hope to see you at this unique event!

If you have any questions check out our Seniors Fair webpage or give Hamdi a call at
416-961-6888 ext 241.

 

 

Kelly Harbour is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  Retirement  Senior volunteering  Seniors  Skills  Toronto  Toronto seniors 

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7 grassroots groups you need to follow in Toronto

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator, Grassroots Growth, March 24, 2017
Updated: March 24, 2017
 Grassroots Groups in Toronto

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Fuelled by pure passion and little-to-no-money, grassroots groups across Toronto are challenging the status quo. These community collectives are completely powered by volunteers and are calling for positive social change.

But who are they?

Volunteer Toronto has spent two years trying to find out, and by doing so is working to increase their capacity and community impact. Here are 7 grassroots groups that are driving social change in the 6ix:

 

1.   CivicTech Toronto

What do you get when you combine the tech-savvy and the socially conscious? A group of powerhouse digital entrepreneurs, set out to improve government policy for the greater good. Designers, urban planners, politicos, web developersthis grassroots group unites to take on civic challenges through weekly hackathons.

 

2.  Mornelle AllStars

Scarborough is a little brighter, and safer, due to the Mornelle AllStars, a group of tireless volunteers who are driving programming in their neighbourhood to make things ultimately safer. Need a walk to-or-from school? After-school programming? A shoulder to lean on? This grassroots group is here to help.

 

3. Fix the 6ix

What can you really buy with less than $5 in Torontothe truth is, very little. But many small things contribute to a greater good. This grassroots group is collecting your digital loose change and converting it into social change. Fix the 6ix will take the last bits from those random gift cards and combined with others, they will put it towards food, clothing and other items for shelters across the city.

 

4.   Shelter Movers of Toronto

Helping others flee abusive living situations is the goal of Shelter Movers of Toronto, who work tirelessly to relocate victims that need a safer space to call home. This group of volunteers offer free services, working collaboratively with victim service agencies, shelters and law enforcement to make a difference.

 

5.   Queers for Dinner

Nothing brings people together quite like a good meal. Queers for Dinner is doing just that: building friendships, fostering a sense of community, and belongingone bite at a time. They put on hugely successful events at great local restaurants, creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ folks and allies.

 

6.   Repair Café Toronto

Take recycling one step further to save the planet! Repair Cafe has an entirely new spin on your broken toaster or chair: don’t just toss it, try to fix it. Volunteers at this grassroots group run free sessions, teaching and empowering you to challenge wasteful thinking.

 

7.   Amanda’s Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… and sell it to raise money for charity. This grassroots group is reviving the classic curbside lemonade stand and encouraging others to donate their proceeds to the causes they care about. This June Amanda’s Lemonade is hosting a World Record attempt for the most lemonade stands in a row!

 

Meet fearless volunteers from these, and other groups during the Grassroots Week Volunteer Fair on March 26 at the Toronto Reference Library.

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.


Tags:  grassroots growth  grassroots leaders  Grassroots week  volunteer leaders 

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Ask Kelly: Can you help me find a volunteer position that will give me a visa?

Posted By Kelly Harbour, Community Engagement Coordinator, March 20, 2017
Updated: March 16, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly Harbour is our in-house expert on all things volunteering. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Kelly


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Kelly,

My name is Alejandro and I am living in Brazil. I want to come to Toronto as a volunteer. Can you help me find a volunteer position that will give me a visa? And it would be great if that position could pay for my room and board. Thanks,

Alejandro

 


 

Hello Alejandro,

Thanks for your email and your interest in volunteering in Toronto. This is a question we receive often and is important to clarify.

Volunteer Toronto supports people already living in Toronto who are looking to volunteer. We work with non-profits who are in search of volunteers in the city. If you move to Toronto, we would be happy to help you find a meaningful volunteer position. You can check out all current opportunities at volunteertoronto.ca.

None of the non-profit organizations we work with provide visas for volunteer work, as they look to recruit volunteers already living in Toronto. Additionally, if you do an online search you can find websites that may offer room and board for volunteering in Canada, however we are not connected to these organizations.

I hope this information was helpful and if you do come to Toronto, please do get in touch so we can help you find a meaningful volunteer opportunity!

Kelly 

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly Harbour is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  Ask Kelly  volunteer in Canada  volunteer visa 

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Meet Our Team: Patricia Knycha

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, March 6, 2017
Updated: March 1, 2017

Volunteer Toronto staff 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

This may surprise you but Volunteer Toronto doesn't run itself (insert gasp here!). As Canada's largest volunteer centre, we operate on the people power of 8 full-time staff, 5 contract staff, 60 + volunteers and an abundance of passion.

Our team comes from places all over the country and the world; Vancouver, PEI, England, Sri Lanka, USA, Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada to name a few. Each one of us draws from our own unique experiences and contributes our skills in the hopes of building a more caring city.

So far, we have featured: 

Camara Chambers,
Director of Community Engagement

Our Grassroots Growth team

Melina Condren,
Director of Engaging Organizations

Kelly DeVries,
Community Engagement Coordinator

Sammy Feilchenfeld,
Training Coordinator

David Allen,
Executive Director

Kasandra James
Subscriptions Coordinator

Niranjala Mariathas,
Operations Manager

And our final feature...our Senior Bookkeeper!

 

 Pat Knycha
Pat Knycha

WHO: Pat Knycha

ROLE: Senior Bookkeeper

# OF YEARS AT VT: Almost 5 years

PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton, Ontario

FAVOURITE SONG: "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley

FAVOURITE QUOTE: 

Live. Love. Laugh.

 

 

 

 

What do you do at Volunteer Toronto? 

I ensure the financial well-being of Volunteer Toronto through the maintenance of complete accounting records of all financial transactions making sure they remain in harmony with appropriate accounting procedures.

 Pat at desk

 

 


What do you like most about your job?

What first interested me in working for Volunteer Toronto would have to be when I read their mission statement. There is so much to admire about the process Volunteer Toronto takes to guide Torontonians to their dream volunteer position, and I’m glad to be part of the team. Also I love working with numbers!

 

Calculator

 

What was your most enjoyable volunteer experience?

Studying for my CGA (Certified General Account) I got exposed to the volunteer sector within the organization. I decided the best option for me would be to volunteer to prepare tax returns at a low income senior’s retirement home. It was very humbling. From that experience I decided to continue helping people learn about finances and how they can become financially secure.

 

What's one of your favourite hobbies most people don't know about?

For about a year and a half now I have been an avid Salsa dancer. Some of my go to spots include “Fregata Restaurant and Lounge” and my go to spot “Dovercourt House.”

 

Salsa Dancing

 

Of all your favourite foods, which is one that you would find hardest to give up for the rest of your life and why?

Apples...they are crunchy and sweet and so good for you!

 Apples

 

What's the most unusual item in your desk drawer?

European Dark Chocolate

 

Roxanne EnglishRoxanne English supports Volunteer Toronto’s community outreach by coordinating events, delivering presentations on how to volunteer, and representing Volunteer Toronto at events across this city. With Roxanne’s help, we’ll be able to provide more people with information about volunteering in Toronto.

Tags:  Accounting  Meet our Team  Volunteer Toronto Staff 

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4 Ways Volunteering Changed My Life

Posted By Colin J. Rainsbury, Outreach Volunteer, February 21, 2017
Updated: February 13, 2017

 Collin J. Rainsbury planting a tree in Mumbai, India during a field trip with UNICEF

Colin J. Rainsbury planting a tree in Mumbai, India while on a field trip with UNICEF

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I was first introduced to volunteering at the age of six. In London, England during World War II, my parents volunteered by helping to organize community events on weekends in the local school. My sisters and I used to help by serving tea or collecting tickets.

Little did I know how being a volunteer would evolve into such an important and integral part of my life. Over the years, volunteering has helped me develop new skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to experience in my day-to-day work.

Here are four ways volunteering changed my life:

 

I Became A Leader

As a young adult, I volunteered as a youth leader in the Boys' Brigade and was also Cadet Officer. This involved program planning and teaching such things as communications, first aid, military skills, as well as organizing gymnastics, games and events. I also served as a Board Member and Secretary for the international youth organization.

 

Collin meeting The Queen & Duke of Edinburgh

Colin meeting Her Majesty the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as a Cadet Officer (1967)

 

I Got Organized

I chaired, planned, and attended local, provincial, national and international conventions and training conferences. As Board Secretary, I also perfected the art of note-taking.

 Colin Rainsbury with fellows from the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association

Colin (front right) as Secretary for the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association meeting with members from around the Commonwealth (1953)

 

I Got Out Of My Bubble

Being a volunteer gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from people at all levels of society including those from other countries. This was especially true when I emigrated to Canada in 1957.

 Colin Rainsbury talking to local village chief in Kenya

Colin (left) speaking with a local village chief in Kenya while evaluating a UNICEF/Canada project (1975)

 

I Became A Better Public Speaker

All of the above gave me the necessary experiences to improve on my public speaking skills. I learned how to properly speak with the media, as well as develop my presentation abilities on varied subjects to different audiences.

 Colin Rainsbury making a speech

Colin making a speech as Secretary for the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association

 

In 1963, after a two-year working vacation, during which I visited Australia and hitch-hiked from Cape Town to Cairo, I finally returned to Canada after renewing many of my international association friendships along the way.

In Ottawa, I became the Executive Assistant to the General Manager/Chief Engineer of a Crown corporation responsible for public utilities across northern Canada. While my training as an electrical engineer helped, it was due to the additional skills I learned as a volunteer that made me stand out. After receiving the position, I later learned they had had difficulty filling it for some time.

In the following years, because of my new administrative work and continued volunteer experiences, I began to consider switching to non-profit work.

In 1970, UNICEF was looking for its first Canadian Field Director. From the job-description I had the qualifications they were looking for; administrative and public speaking skills, volunteering, plus international experience. I obtained the position and what followed was 26 years of a very satisfying career change.

The work was both challenging and varied. It took me across Canada and eventually, UNICEF Canada became known around the world for its success in developing a national volunteer network of all ages.

It has been a long journey since I was a boy serving tea in 1940 to representing Canada on the international stage, including various disaster zones, but it is a journey that has been well worth it!

 

Collin J. Rainsbury

Colin J. Rainsbury has a wealth of experience not only as a volunteer for over 70 years, but also as the Executive Director for a number of non-profit organizations, both large and small. A number of months ago he changed his focus and joined Volunteer Toronto as a member of the outreach team and enjoys sharing his experiences from both sides of the “volunteer fence” with potential new and returning volunteers. As a "foodie", in his spare time, he updates his own unique “Wine & Dine the Subway” website and assists his partner in running a small but successful business.


Tags:  City of Toronto Volunteers  Toronto  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering for youth  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support 

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ASK KELLY - Do I need to speak perfect English to volunteer?

Posted By Kelly Harbour, Community Engagement Coordinator, February 6, 2017
Updated: February 3, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly Harbour is our in-house expert on all things volunteering. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Kelly


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Kelly,

I have been looking for volunteering in non-profit organizations for almost two months but I didn't find anything. I am new in Canada and my English is not perfect yet. Is it affecting on opportunities that exist?

Susan

 


 

Hello Susan,

Welcome to Toronto and thanks so much for wanting to volunteer. It is hard to say exactly why you haven’t found a volunteer position, but I can give you some tips for the application process.

  1. Choose Positions That Fit

    There are hundreds of different positions on our website. Before applying for positions spend some time reflecting on what kind of volunteering you`d like to do. Then, when researching positions, be sure to look at their requirements. Are they asking for fluency in English? Are they asking for certain types of experience? You’ll have better luck if you apply for positions that fit your current skills and strengths.

  2. Follow the Instructions on How to Apply

    Volunteer Toronto works with over 600 different non-profit organizations. At the bottom of a posting you will find a Contact/How to Apply section, which should outline what steps you need to take to apply. This could include sending an email, filling out an application form or making a phone call among other things. It is important to follow the instructions to show that you can pay attention to detail, respect the wishes of the volunteer coordinator and care about the position.

  3. Come Across Professionally

    Making a great first impression can go a long way in the application process. Coming across professionally will help your application shine above the rest. You should customize your application to the specific role and clearly introduce yourself and why you are interested in the position. Make sure to answer all questions fully and before submitting your application, double check everything for spelling and grammar.

  4. Demonstrate You Care

    Non-profit organizations rely on volunteers to help them achieve their mission. If you care about the work they do or the community they serve demonstrate this in your application. The more concrete your reasons the better! For example, do you want to volunteer with seniors because your grandma played an important role in your life? Do you want to tutor science because you want to share your passion? Explain this in your application.

  5. Don’t Give Up

    Sometimes you might find a great position and write an amazing application that clearly demonstrates why it’s the perfect fit and still not get the position. Although that can be disappointing, do not give up! Sometimes the position may have just been filled. Or the volunteer coordinator was overwhelmed with applications. Or there was a better candidate out there (hard to believe I know!). Please don’t give up. Keep applying and striving to find a good fit, because when you do it will be worth it.

I hope that soon you find a meaningful and marvelous volunteer opportunity,

Kelly

 

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly Harbour is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  Ask Kelly  ESL volunteers  How long does it take to find a volunteer position  How to volunteer as a newcomer  Kelly Harbour 

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The Ultimate Volunteer Leadership Role

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January 30, 2017
Updated: January 27, 2017

Becoming A Board Member Sessions

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

 

At Volunteer Toronto, we often meet seasoned professionals with great skills and experience who want to find a way to apply what they know to benefit a non-profit. For someone with an interest in a high-level leadership role, volunteering on a non-profit’s board of directors is a great way to put your skills to good use and build on your leadership experience along the way.

But before you decide to start applying for board roles, it’s important to consider whether a board member role is right for you.

3 things to consider:

1. What issues am I most passionate about?

2. Can I contribute the time necessary to be an effective board member? 

3. What type of board would my skills and personality be a good fit for?



To make this easy, we run regular informational workshops on what’s involved in being a board member. In two hours, you’ll learn everything from what a Board of Director does, what skills you’ll need to join one, whether previous board experience is needed, what you should know before you join a board, and what the benefits are of volunteering on a board.

The session ends with tips and information on how you can find a board member role. While the session isn't about matching you with the right board member role, we can certainly give you all the tools and information you’ll need to find a non-profit board that is a good match for you.

So, if you want a volunteer role that will be as rewarding as it is challenging, come to one of our workshops to find out more about what’s involved!

Becoming A Board Member Sessions

Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

Tags:  Accountability  Board Member  Board of Directors  Board Work  Governance  How do I join a Board of Directors?  Joining a Board  Leadership  Skilled Volunteers  Volunteer Board of Directors 

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ASK KELLY - Can I volunteer for my birthday?

Posted By Kelly Harbour, Community Engagement Coordinator, January 23, 2017
Updated: January 19, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly Harbour is our in-house expert on all things volunteering. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Kelly


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Kelly,

For my birthday, my friends and I would like to volunteer. Is this kind of thing possible? Are there any opportunities we can do as a group? Can you please let me know?

Ahkal

 


 

Hello Akhal,

Thanks so much for your interest in volunteering with your friends. Most opportunities to volunteer with your friends are one-time special events such as festivals, fundraisers and marathons. These opportunities occur throughout the year, and are particularly abundant in the spring and summer.

Volunteering for your birthday sounds like fun! All of our group volunteer opportunities depend on the needs of the organizations we work with, so it is hard to predict if there will be an opportunity specifically on your birthday. You’ll have better success if you are open to looking for something anytime during your birth month.

I don’t know how many friends you’re thinking about inviting, but before you send out those invitations know that the average group opportunity asks for sizes of 5-10 people. It is quite difficult to find opportunities for groups larger than 10.

To find group opportunities that suite your birthday interests please search volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities and use Category “4. Suitable for Groups”. You’ll then be able to read through opportunities and when one interests you, you can apply by following the instructions in the “How to Apply/Contact” section. Just so you know, the opportunities on our website change daily, so if you don’t find something that interests you right now, be sure to check back soon.

Hope you have fun Akhal! Happy birthday!

Thanks for reaching out,

Kelly 

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly Harbour is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  Kelly Harbour  volunteer in group  Volunteer with friends 

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Meet Our Team: Niranjala Mariathas

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, January 16, 2017
Updated: January 13, 2017

Volunteer Toronto staff 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

This may surprise you but Volunteer Toronto doesn't run itself (insert gasp here!). As Canada's largest volunteer centre, we operate on the people power of 8 full-time staff, 5 contract staff, 60 + volunteers and an abundance of passion.

Our team comes from places all over the country and the world; Vancouver, PEI, England, Sri Lanka, USA, Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada to name a few. Each one of us draws from our own unique experiences and contributes our skills in the hopes of building a more caring city.

So far, we have featured: 

Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement
Our Grassroots Growth team
Melina Condren, Director of Engaging Organizations
Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator
Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator
David Allen, Executive Director
Kasandra JamesSubscriptions Coordinator

Next up... the one person who brings it all together...our Operations Manager!

 

 Niranjala Mariathas
 Nira Mariathas

WHO: Niranjala (Nira) Mariathas

ROLE: Operations Manager

# OF YEARS AT VT: 24+ years

PLACE OF BIRTH: Colombo, Sri Lanka

FAVOURITE SONG: I don't have a specific song that I like, but I do enjoy listening to ABBA and Boney M.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: 

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value" - Albert Einstein

 

 

 

What do you do at Volunteer Toronto? 

I manage day-to-day operations of Volunteer Toronto. This includes human resources management, the functioning of the office and administrative systems. I also fill in for the Accounting department on occasion.

 Nira at desk

 

 


What do you like most about your job?

I like being in the office and keeping things organized.

 

Volunteer Toronto Print Room

 

What was your most enjoyable volunteer experience?

My first volunteer experience is the most unforgettable one. When I first joined Volunteer Toronto as a volunteer, I had to update a new database of volunteer information. I had finished a whole year's work in 3 months. It was much appreciated by the team and it was a rewarding experience for me, knowing how much it meant to the Volunteer Toronto team to have an up-to-date database.

 

What's one of your favourite hobbies most people don't know about?

My favourite hobby is reading novels. My first book was Sidney Sheldon’s “Master of the Games”. I have read all his books and ever since I’m addicted to mystery novels and TV shows.

 

Sidney Sheldon Book

 

 

Of all your favourite foods, which is one that you would find hardest to give up for the rest of your life and why?

If there's one thing that I can't give up, it has to be my morning coffee! I can't start my day without a cup of coffee. It's been a part of my routine for years, and it's something I will never change or give up.

 

What's the most unusual item in your desk drawer?

Whatever is in my drawer is usually files and folders along with a hand cream for paper cuts!

 

Nira's Desk Drawer 

 

Roxanne EnglishRoxanne English supports Volunteer Toronto’s community outreach by coordinating events, delivering presentations on how to volunteer, and representing Volunteer Toronto at events across this city. With Roxanne’s help, we’ll be able to provide more people with information about volunteering in Toronto.

Tags:  Meet Our Team  Niranjala Mariathas  Operations Manager 

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Q&A With Daniel Rotsztain: The Man Who Used Art To Protest Toronto’s Condo Boom

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January 9, 2017
Updated: January 5, 2017

Daniel Rotsztain Fake Development Proposal

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

 

At Volunteer Toronto, we love to hear about Torontonians getting involved in their communities and taking action on issues they feel passionately about.

 In fall of 2016, two local artists took the city by surprise when they launched “Development Proposal”, an art project that placed fake development proposal signs by some of Toronto’s most well-known landmarks. Can you imagine a 40-storey condo on top of the CN Tower? Or Old City Hall being transformed into a 90-storey condo and parking garage?

 We interviewed co-creator Daniel Rotsztain to find out more about the project and how it made a difference.

 

Hi Daniel, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Daniel Rotsztain

I call myself an Urban Geographer and that means I’m an artist, writer and mapmaker. I’m really in love with places and am interested in our relationship to places that we live in. I’m especially inspired by Toronto, which is where I grew up and I feel really passionate about this place and in love with all the energy that I see other Torontonians putting into the city. I write for the Globe and Mail and NOW Magazine, and I’m an illustrator.

 

 

 

 

What kind of volunteering or activism have you done in the past?

My volunteerism started near my home. I volunteered for the local Out of Cold program at the synagogue by my house. I also helped at the kitchen at the Good Shepherd centre on Queen and Parliament. In university, I got involved in a lot of food justice activism and helped at a Pay What You Can vegan kitchen. Activism-wise, I’ve gone to all the protests and I’m currently planning on going to Ottawa to support the Chippewwa of the Thames case against Line 9.

 

What did you hope would happen after you put the signs up?

I’m not against condos, but because I grew up here I’m so energized that everyone wants to move here. Condos represent a relatively affordable way to live in the city but that doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize the “unbalanced-ness” of it.

I wanted to spark a conversation about the development process in Toronto, about who is part of the conversation and who isn’t. I decided on the ideas of fake signs as I wanted to critique the signs themselves so the best way to do that was to use straight satire.  With art you are given the opportunity to explore ideas about the future in a way that you can’t with politics and journalism. I also like street art as a medium, it’s the most democratic form of art. It’s not in a gallery…it’s on the street and accessible to everyone.  So putting a physical sign at a busy intersection in downtown Toronto was an easy way to launch our website and get lots of people to see it!

 

Fake condo proposal for the CN Tower  Fake condo proposal for the Toronto Island Ferry 
Daniel Rotsztain and Mike Stulberg Fake Development Proposals

 

I often set mini goals [for my work] to contextualize my work and motivate me, and I really wanted to see a little article on the CBC Toronto’s website. The sign we put up at Old City Hall was up for three whole days. We put it up on Friday and it was gone on Monday, but during that time every major news source covered it. BlogTO, CTV, City TV, Global News, The Star, The Globe and Mail all covered it. Some of the television newscasts had these wild segments where they showed animations of the fake condos that I had proposed, literally coming out of these buildings. I was quite tickled at that.

 

Was there anything you learnt from the project?

There’s quite an informed and engaged community about urban issues in the city especially on Twitter, and from them I learned that the problem really is that the official plan of the city protects neighbourhoods with single-family homes. People in those neighbourhoods can reject even nice, small four-storey condos because the plan says that these neighbourhoods need to be protected.

So what’s happening is it’s in the neighbourhoods that don’t have a lot of people protecting their interests like Liberty Village and Yonge Street, where there weren’t a lot of people living before that are receiving all of this massive development. That’s the real problem, I think.

 

Why did you choose this rather unusual approach?

I believe in art being about communication, and a lot of these issues are complicated. I’m interested in expressing them in a way that will get people thinking about them in a different way or realize something that’s happening that they didn’t realize before.

 

What surprised you about your campaign?

I did this project with a collaborator – Mike Stulberg – and we thought we would get some attention, but the torrent of attention was unexpected. It taught us that this is an issue that people care about and it reminded me that Torontonians do indeed care about their city and the development proposal process. The official plan needs to reflect that more because right now they do these public meetings and a lot of people don’t show up.

Another thing is that a project is an opportunity to start a conversation so I walked in thinking I knew what the issues were but I left knowing much more. That was really humbling.

 

What tips would you give to other Torontonians who are interested in taking a stand on matters they believe in?

I would say that in the city there are a lot of engaged people and there are events almost every night that are discussing issues from inclusivity to affordability to design. Show up at those events. Also, don’t be shy if you don’t know everything about an issue but you want to be part of it. It’s okay to ask questions and engage people in conversation without all the answers. That’s how we learn and that’s how we can support our communities.

 

To someone who is new to city building and activism where would they find these events?

Good question. NOW Magazine has lots of listings, and Facebook is really your best friend. If you’re on Facebook, there’s this group called the Yonge Urbanists League and it has just over 3,000 members. Every day people are posting events on it and that’s my go to source right now. It’s a super supportive community.

 

What do you have planned next either for the campaign or other civic actions?

I still want to explore urban planning and how people are left out of the conversation and who gets to be part of the conversation. I’m exploring the idea of hosting a mock proposal meeting and what alternatives are possible to engagement. I don’t know what form that will take but I have some ideas. I don’t want to say too much as I may do it in secret again!

 

Free Information Sessions!

Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

Tags:  Activism  Activists  City of Toronto Development  Daniel Rotsztain  Fake Development Proposals  Toronto Fake Condo Proposals 

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Meet Our Team: Kasandra James

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, December 12, 2016
Updated: December 9, 2016

 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

This may surprise you but Volunteer Toronto doesn't run itself (insert gasp here!). As Canada's largest volunteer centre, we operate on the people power of 8 full-time staff, 5 contract staff, 60 + volunteers and an abundance of passion.

Our team comes from places all over the country and the world; Vancouver, PEI, England, Sri Lanka, USA, Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada to name a few. Each one of us draws from our own unique experiences and contributes our skills in the hopes of building a more caring city.

So far, we have featured Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, our entire Grassroots Growth team, Director of Engaging Organizations, Melina Condren, Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator, Sammy Feilchenfeld,and David Allen, our Executive Director. 

Next up... our Subscriptions Coordinator!

 

 
 Kasandra James

WHO: Kasandra James

ROLE: Subscriptions Coordinator

# OF YEARS AT VT: 1.5

PLACE OF BIRTH: St. George's, Grenada

FAVOURITE SONG: "Black" by Pearl Jam

FAVOURITE QUOTE: 

"Dubito, Ergo Cognito, Ergo Sum - I doubt,

therefore I think, therefore I am"

- Rene Descartes

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do at Volunteer Toronto? 

I manage our subscriptions programs which helps volunteer managers recruit volunteers through our website and get the support to create great programs and retain amazing volunteers. 

 

What do you like most about your job?

Vicariously impacting lives through over 400 organizations and their volunteers! I get to support and build great relationships with volunteer managers who run programs that have a significant impact on the people of Toronto.

 

 

What was your most enjoyable volunteer experience?

I love being a youth mentor, and have been one since I was a teenager myself.

I was privileged to mentor a young boy for three years, until just over a year ago, and in that time, I got to see him grow into an amazing young man. To be a part of his journey and to have contributed positively to his life was an experience I won't ever forget.

 

What's one of your hidden talents most people don't know about?

I write poetry which not many people have read... but the ones who have enjoyed it!

 

 

 

Of all your favourite foods, which is one that you would find hardest to give up for the rest of your life and why?

Chocolate - pretty much any chocolate but I'm partial to dark 

 

What's the most unusual item in your desk drawer?

I don't have a desk drawer! But I have a bookshelf that compensates. The most unusual thing on it is a mini lint brush and a granola and yogurt bar (which I stash everywhere) 

 

 

 

Roxanne EnglishRoxanne English supports Volunteer Toronto’s community outreach by coordinating events, delivering presentations on how to volunteer, and representing Volunteer Toronto at events across this city. With Roxanne’s help, we’ll be able to provide more people with information about volunteering in Toronto.

Tags:  Kasandra James  Mentorship  Subscriptions  Subscriptions Coordinator  Subscriptions Packages  Volunteer Management 

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Celebrating Our 60+ Volunteers on International Volunteer Day

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, December 5, 2016
Updated: December 2, 2016
 International Volunteer Day 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Just like roots are essential for trees to bloom, volunteers are essential for communities to boom. The United Nation’s International Volunteer Day, started in 1985, is a global celebration of volunteers.

Locally, nationally and internationally, volunteers are leaders in social change everyday. At Volunteer Toronto our work varies, from being a face in the community engaging Torontonians to volunteer, to organizing and facilitating conferences and training session for various organizations. Yes, we do a lot! But we must give our 60+ volunteers a round of applause. Without them working relentlessly we couldn’t be what we are today.

Here's a sampling of some of our amazing volunteers:

 

Tal

Tal joined the Community Engagement team in September, and provides a key role in helping us compile our evaluation stats, conducting research for our programs, and providing administrative support for events. A key project he has been working on is inputting data from recent workshops which we then analyze to determine how we can amend them to better help the communities we serve. He always has an enthusiastic, friendly, warm demeanour and is a welcome addition to our team.



Cathy

Cathy has been an Outreach Volunteer with us at Volunteer Toronto since September 2015. In her role, Cathy uses her fantastic interpersonal skills and presentation experience to inform and inspire people across the city to volunteer. Cathy attends volunteer fairs, job fairs, and special events and gives presentations to various members of the public. With Cathy’s assistance Volunteer Toronto is able to outreach to more than 8,000 people every year.  

 


Seher


Seher holds a variety of volunteer roles at Volunteer Toronto. As our Youth Social Media Coordinator, she manages our Volunteer Toronto Youth social media accounts, updating them regularly with new volunteer opportunities available to youth all over Toronto. In her role as a Youth Auditor she works in a team to go into non-profits and assess how well they work with high school volunteers. They then write a report that gives the organizations feedback on their volunteer program, and provide recommendations for improvement. She, also, has been instrumental in the planning of our Youth Expo. .  

 

A big shout out to all the amazing volunteers around the world. We want to thank you all for your time, dedication and willing spirits. 

 

Roxanne EnglishRoxanne English supports Volunteer Toronto’s community outreach by coordinating events, delivering presentations on how to volunteer, and representing Volunteer Toronto at events across this city. With Roxanne’s help, we’ll be able to provide more people with information about volunteering in Toronto.

Tags:  High School Volunteers  International Volunteer Day  Office Volunteer  Outreach Volunteer  Volunteer  Volunteer at Volunteer Toronto  Volunteer Toronto  Youth Volunteers 

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10 Places In Toronto To Buy Gifts That Support The Local Community!

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 1, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
  10 Places To Buy Gifts That Support The Local Community!

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It is officially the start of the season of giving.  Why not direct your generosity in a way that benefits our community, by selecting gifts that give back? We’ve made it easy for you by putting together our top ten gift ideas for 2016 - just click the link in each title to find out more!

 

Inspirations Studio

Located on Dundas West, Inspirations Studio is a pottery studio that teaches women living on low-incomes how to create and sell pottery. The program allows women to gain meaningful employment and provides a safe and inclusive space for creativity. They sell mugs, bowls, plates, platters and beautiful handmade items of all shapes and sizes!

 

Inspirations Studio

Inspirations Studio is a pottery studio that teaches women living on low-incomes how to create and sell pottery.

 

DANI

It’s easy to shop online and select thoughtfully created gift baskets, cookie platters and baby gifts for those you love.  DANI Toronto is a local charity that provides vocational training for adults with special needs so that they can participate as valued members of our community by being involved in the organization’s gift shop, catering, café, and restaurant. 

 

 Dani

DANI Toronto is a local charity that provides vocational training for adults with special needs

 

Sappho

For that special person, choose from an exquisite collection of jewelry that is considered wearable art! Sappho empowers women from marginalized populations across Toronto by employing them to make the jewelry and an income that they can use to support their families. They also sell beautiful “empathy effect” pins with 15% of the proceeds given to a charitable organization that is catalyzing empathy. 

 Sappho

Sappho empowers women from marginalized populations across Toronto
by employing them to make the jewelry.

 

St. John’s Bakery

St. John’s Bakery in the east end employs people on Ontario Works, people with disabilities, people struggling with addictions, people with emotional and or mental Illness, people new to Canada and single parents.  And they make the best bread in the city!  Their sweets and bread can be purchased at their location at Queen and Broadview.  Their bakery goods will make the perfect hostess gift for the party season!

 St. John's Bakery

St. John's Bakery employs people with disabilities, mental illness,
those struggling with addictions, and newcomers to Canada. 

 

Pursuit OCR 

Have a friend who would love to attend an acroyoga class or enjoy the challenges of an indoor obstacle course?  Purchase a gift card from Pursuit OCR in Little Portugal!  By donating 30% of their profits to local non-profits, Pursuit OCR is helping to build awareness in schools about the LGBTQ community.   

 Pursuit OCR

Pursuit OCR donates 30% of their profits to non-profits supporting the LBGTQ community

 

 

FoodShare

FoodShare is a Toronto based non-profit organization that works with communities and schools to deliver healthy food and food education.  Enjoy visiting their website to choose gift baskets of delicious food and bakery items, packaged in beautiful custom made totes and baskets!

 FoodShare

FoodShare is a non-profit organization that works with communities and schools
t
o deliver healthy food and food education. 

 

 

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto

Drop by the Native Canadian Centre in The Annex to visit their indigenous owned and operated store.  Select from a wide variety of First Nations, Métis and Inuit handcrafted jewelry, carvings, basketry, beadwork, moccasins, and original art.

 Native Canadian Centre

The gift shop is Toronto’s only indigenous owned and operated store.

 

 

Ezzy Lynn

Ezzy Lynn is a lifestyle brand of trendsetting apparel and accessories started by three graduates from Western University who are based in Toronto and London, Ontario. Each item they sell represents a unique endangered animal which they adopt through WWF-Canada from proceeds of each sale.  What a wonderful way to make someone happy in your life and also make an impact on wildlife conservation!  

 Ezzy Lynn

Each Ezzy Lynn item represents a unique endangered animal which the company adopts
through WWF-Canada from proceeds of each sale.  

 

 

Klink Coffee

Brew up some good by purchasing coffee in support of the John Howard Society. This social enterprise assists individuals in removing barriers to entering the workforce. This non-profit organization works especially with clients coming out of the criminal justice system offering employment readiness and on-the-job training.  

 Klink Coffee

Klink Coffee works with clients coming out of the criminal justice system offering employment readiness and on-the-job training. 


 

 

Brighton Launch

If you know someone who loves one-of-a-kind items, check out Brighton Launch! Based in Toronto, their program offers students with learning challenges the business skills and experience that will allow them to find full time jobs. Their online store carries stocking stuffers and unique handmade items such as bath bombs and tub teas.

 Brighton Launch

Brighton Launch offers students with learning challenges the business skills and
experience that will allow them to find full time jobs.

 

Lori Vaudry

Lori is recently retired after a successful career in financial services. She is enjoying every moment of the new phase in her life by playing tennis, sitting on a hospital Board of Directors, learning to play piano, and walking her dogs. Lori volunteers one day a week with Volunteer Toronto as a Referral Counsellor, helping individuals find volunteer opportunities that suit their passions and skills.


Tags:  Best Christmas Gifts of 2016  Christmas gift  Ethical holiday gifts  Gifts to support the local community  Kindest Christmas Gives This year  What to buy for Christmas 

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Ask Kelly - Do You Have Volunteer Opportunities in Mississauga?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, November 24, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly DeVries is our in-house expert on all things volunteering. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Kelly


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Kelly,

I’m interested in volunteering in Mississauga. Can you please send me some opportunities? Also, my friend lives in Oakville; can you send her options too?  

Dennis

 


 

Hello, Dennis

Thanks for your email and your interest in volunteering. We at Volunteer Toronto serve the City of Toronto, which includes downtown, North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke. You can think about it like this: we serve anywhere the T.T.C. travels. Although on our website you may find a handful of opportunities outside of the City of Toronto, most of the opportunities we offer are within Toronto.  

Mississauga is a different city than the City of Toronto. Luckily, there is an organization called Volunteer MBC that services Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. I would suggest you contact them to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

There are 26 volunteer centres like Volunteer Toronto and Volunteer MBC across the province that exist to help people like you find meaningful volunteer opportunities in their community. For people across Ontario who are looking to volunteer, a great place to find the nearest volunteer centre to you is OVCN.ca.

 

Thanks so much for contacting us and I wish you great luck as you seek out a volunteer opportunity.

 

Kelly 

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly DeVries is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  Ask Kelly  Ontario Voluntary Centre Network  OVCN  Volunteer in Mississauga  Volunteer MBC  Where to volunteer outside the GTA 

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