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6 Non-profits to Volunteer with in High Park

Posted By Adam Dias, March 15, 2018
 High Park Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

They say that Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods—many different neighbourhoods! And we’ve found lots of people want to volunteer close to where they live, either for convenience or so they can get to know their community better. In this blog I’ll be featuring non-profits you can give your time with based on neighbourhoods across the city.


High Park is known for its scenic views, spring cherry blossoms, and sprawling gardens. Aside from the greenery, High Park also has a number of great, local non-profits—here are six of our favourites:

 

ShelterBox

Believing that no one deserves to be homeless, ShelterBox provides aid in communities around the world that have been devastated by natural disasters. They have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in fundraising, event planning and donations. You can even join one of their response teams to provide aid directly.

The Period Purse

Menstruation can pose a serious problem for women experiencing homelessness. The Period Purse supports women across the city who are living in shelters and on the streets by delivering tampons and pads, discreetly packaged in stylish purses. They need volunteers to help with administration work, packing, accepting donations, and delivering the purses to people and shelters across the city.

Runnymede Healthcare Centre

Taking a new approach to healthcare, Runnymede works together with their patients to create treatment programs catered to their unique needs. They’re often looking for friendly visitors, assistance in programs and therapy, and administrative volunteers

West Toronto Support Services

WTSS believes in neighbours helping neighbours. They provide a variety of supports to seniors, adults with disabilities, and caregivers in West Toronto. WTSS has a wide variety of volunteer positions including friendly visiting, meal delivery, administrative assistance, and many more!

Not Just Tourists

This organization aims to take travellers and empower them to change lives. Not Just Tourists accepts donated medical supplies and packs them into suitcases, to be delivered by tourists travelling to countries in need. They’re often looking for help receiving donations, sorting and packing supplies, outreach, and—of course—travelling.

St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

St. Joe’s provides a sense of community as well as excellent patient care to everyone that comes through their door. They rely on volunteers who generously donate their time to assist with various programs, friendly visits, patient care, and at their information centres and gift shops.

 

Interested in volunteering with one of these non-profits in High Park? Either check out our volunteer opportunities database and search by the organization name, or visit their website directly to reach out and start a conversation about how you can volunteer.

Not from High Park and want suggestions in your neighbourhood? Email info@volunteertoronto.ca with subject line: “Ask Kelly” to let me know what area of the city I should focus on next!

 

Tags:  Give Back  How to start volunteering  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering  Ways to volunteer 

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Youth that Care about their City: Mandy

Posted By Adam Dias, March 8, 2018
 Creators' Joy
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

 

Hi! My name is Mandy and I’m in grade 12. But my interest in volunteering started way before highshool. I was always so excited to volunteer as a reading buddy at my local library because they were who I looked up to as a kid.

I began volunteering at the library the summer before grade nine. I loved that I was able to help shy readers overcome barriers and become more confident. When reading an animal story, I had students pretend they were their favourite animal in the book and read those lines, eventually acting them out in a play at the end of the program. Ever since, I’ve been looking for volunteer positions that contribute to the amazing programs I had the privilege of experiencing so that others can too. I believe getting involved in the community through volunteering is such a fantastic experience and it is so important for youth to realize the impact they’re making—especially on other youth.

 

Changing the landscape, changing yourself

As a Youth Auditor with Volunteer Toronto, I work with a team to interview non-profit volunteer managers who want to learn how to better engage youth. We work hard to break down stigmas by focusing our efforts on minority groups and advocating for youth’s strengths. We’re building a community together—identifying resources, like social media, and teaching leaders how to use them. Within the past six months, the Youth Auditor feedback has empowered youth across the city to take on more versatile volunteer roles that weren’t always available to them before.

Through volunteering you are able to find out more about yourself. As a student, you will want to explore your passions, potential future career field, and whether you enjoy being a leader or an excellent team player. Volunteering will allow you to work with like minded people who are enthusiastic about different interests, and can be a supportive community for your aspirations.

When I was looking to get more involved, I found that many organizations in my community tackled the survival necessities for the less fortunate such as food and shelter, but few addressed their happiness. I decided to co-found a club called “Creators’ Joy” and organized an event where we handmade and donated cards to a homeless shelter. I expanded it to a non-profit organization to reach out to a greater audience, and to increase our impact and inspire youth leadership, I recruited a youth executive team. Within our first year, we’ve donated thousands of cards, engaged hundreds of youth volunteers through our bimonthly cardmaking events, and partnering with 11 non-profits, including Second Harvest, Pride Toronto, and SickKids, to fill an important need I saw in the community.

 

Giving back and getting more

As a volunteer in the waiting room at Rexdale Community Health Center, I’ve been able to interact with many patients and understand how the health center’s membership is an asset to their current life. I worked on the event promotion on Instagram and subsequently volunteered at the events, allowing me to fully understand the organization and its patient’s values.

As a student, I strongly believe youth should not underestimate the impact they make as volunteers. Many non-profits count on youth to be role models for after school sports activities or other programs to vamp up the excitement for the participants. Recipients often look up to the volunteers as a role model—just like I looked up to the reading buddies at my local library.

 

Find where you fit

My advice on getting started? Ask yourself: where would I be happy? I got to relive and share great memories again as a volunteer reading buddy. But what if you enjoy visual arts? Try looking up local arts and craft programs that recruit volunteers in your community, or even apply to one of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s summer programs. Because if you enjoy it, you’ll be a better volunteer too! Visit non-profit’s websites and Facebook pages to learn more, especially about how they engage youth.

We’d also love to have you attend our card making events with “Creators’ Joy”—you can stay updated via our Facebook page. And of course, Volunteer Toronto is always pumping out amazing volunteering opportunities. Search from hundreds on their opportunity database. I hope you—other youth—are able to find your rewarding path in volunteering beyond their forty-hours, just like me!

 

 

Mandy Wai is a grade 12 MaCS student at William Lyon Mackenzie C.I. She is a co-founder of Creators' Joy, a student-run non-profit that focuses on meeting the emotional needs of those in shelters. Dedicated to giving back, Mandy has been volunteering in her community for over 4 years and, as a youth auditor with Volunteer Toronto, she is helping Toronto's non-profits better engage youth volunteers.

Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  Give Back  Make a Difference  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteering for youth  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Volunteers 

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Volunteering with mental illness: 6 tips to get you started

Posted By Lisa Robinson, January 24, 2018
Updated: January 23, 2018
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

 

As I write this, it’s blue Monday—the saddest day of the year. Winter weather and shorter days, especially in January, can have a drastic impact on our mood. Living with mental illness myself, I agree—this time of year is far from easy.

So what’s the good news?

It’s known that community can be an antidote for feeling low. And what better way to connect with others than through volunteering? However, finding a volunteer position can be overwhelming, especially if you’re already feeling down. Knowing this, I’ve put together six tips that can take your volunteer search from blah to yah!

 

Start by listing your skills

Hey you! Yes, you. You have skills, lots of them. So go ahead and write them down. What have you learned from your experiences? You’d be surprised at how valuable your skills are. Take a few minutes to reflect on what a great asset you’ll be as a volunteer.

Determine your intentions

Now that you know that you’ll be a valuable volunteer (see your list!) it’s time to think about what YOU want out of volunteering. Are there any skills you want to learn? A specific neighbourhood where you’d like to give back? Or a cause you feel inspired by? Your answers will help narrow down which roles to apply for. Remember, you should get just as much out of your volunteer experience as you put in. You deserve it!

Find the right fit

Volunteer roles are different everywhere you go. Some are really formal and require a big commitment. If you don’t feel ready, that’s okay! You can always explore other opportunities, there are hundreds of non-profits in the city! Find a volunteer role with expectations that motivate you, not overwhelm you. Not sure you’ve found a good fit? Ask to try out the role. You never know until you’ve given it a shot!

Share your intentions

Remember those intentions you created? Share them. Share them with someone in your social network. Share them with (potential) volunteer managers. By sharing these intentions you’ll get support. And hey, you might even find a volunteer manager that adapts a role for you.

Share your needs

Just as important is to share what your needs are. I’ve personally found it helpful to talk to my volunteer supervisor about living with mental illness. If nothing else, I don’t feel like I have to hide when I’m having a bad day. At best, they might work with you to determine how they can support you in your role. Remember, this is your information to share. Only share if you are comfortable.

Follow your gut

It’s important to listen to your gut feelings. Are you achieving what you intended to in a volunteer role? If not, then don’t do it. But don’t give up either. There is an opportunity out there for everyone!

 

As you embark on your volunteer journey, remember you have valuable skills to give. Consider volunteering this winter, and throughout the year, to feel more connected to others. Explore hundreds of opportunities in Toronto using our volunteer opportunities database.

 

Lisa Robinson, Program DeveloperLisa Robinson  is leading the research and development of Volunteer Toronto's first ever placement support program to help Torontonians that are facing barriers to achieving their volunteering goals. Whether they are new to Canada, have accessibility challenges, or find it hard to navigate computers the program is being designed to give everyone the resources they need to find a meaningful and supportive volunteer role.

Tags:  Give Back  Help finding a volunteer position  how do I get a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  Make a Difference  Mental Health  Questions about volunteering  Respect  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer 

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7 non-profits to volunteer with in Midtown

Posted By Kelly Harbour, Senior Community Engagement Coordinator, January 19, 2018
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

They say that Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods—many different neighbourhoods! And we’ve found lots of people want to volunteer close to where they live, either for convenience or so they can get to know their community better. In this blog I’ll be featuring non-profits you can give your time with based on neighbourhoods across the city.


Midtown, loosely defined as the area around Yonge & St. Clair, is a hub of activity, shopping and great local eats. It is also the home base for many local, provincial and national non-profits. Here are seven great organizations you can volunteer with in the Midtown neighbourhood:

 

Central Eglinton Community Centre

As a community hub, Central Eglinton runs health, arts and social programming for infants to seniors. Volunteer positions they may recruit for include tax preparers, fitness instructors, committee members and program volunteers.

VHA Home Healthcare

Focused on healthcare, VHA Home Healthcare provides comprehensive care including personal support, extreme cleaning and palliative care wherever someone needs it. Hoarding Support, In-Home ESL Tutors and Family Support are some of the positions they may recruit volunteers for. 

York Pioneer Historic Society

Working to “preserve the past for the future,” the Historic Society hosts social events, writes an annual journal and operates Scadding Cabin, Toronto’s oldest house. They are often looking for volunteers to assist with publicity, research, writing and committee work.

Skylark Children, Youth and Families

As an organization focused on the well-being of children and families, Skylark offers free individual and family counselling, treatment programs and support services. Volunteer positions that may recruit for include fundraising and administrative support.

Hospice Toronto

Working with people across the city, Hospice Toronto provides in-home hospice palliative care as well services to support grieving families. They are looking for volunteers to generously spend time and give practical support to people who are living with a life-threatening illness. All Hospice Volunteers receive a minimum of 35 hours of training before beginning in the role.

Future Possibilities For Kids

With the goal of empowering children to make concrete changes in their community, Future Possibilities for Kids matches adult volunteer mentors with children to help provide and guidance and support for reaching their goals. Future Possibilities asks volunteer mentors to connect with their mentee over the phone at least once a week and together attend five events throughout the year.

Alzheimer Society of Toronto

The role of this organization is to provide support, information, research and resources for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Volunteer positions include peer support group facilitators, social media ambassadors and assisting at special fundraising events.

 

Interested in volunteering with one of these non-profits in Midtown? Either check out our volunteer opportunities database and search by the organization name, or visit their website directly to reach out and start a conversation about how you can volunteer.

Not from Midtown and want suggestions in your neighbourhood? Email info@volunteertoronto.ca with subject line: “Ask Kelly” to let me know what area of the city I should focus on next!

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly Harbour is Volunteer Toronto's Senior 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:  Frequently Asked Questions  Help finding a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  How to volunteer in Toronto  Questions about volunteering  Toronto  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Ways to volunteer 

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Ask Kelly: Why do I need to apply to volunteer?

Posted By Kelly Harbour, Senior Community Engagement Coordinator, December 20, 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 want to volunteer and give my time in the community. I don’t understand why I need to fill in an application form, attend an interview and possibly do a police check. Isn’t it enough that I want to give my time to help?

Margaret

 


 

Hi Margaret,

Thanks so much for your question. It is a good one. And I’m happy to hear you want to support your community.

Volunteers help non-profits achieve their missions and create change in the community. Majority of non-profits will have an application process to ensure that they find the right volunteer for the role. This benefits the non-profit and the community as they ensure that the person has the right skills, experience and personality for the position. This can also benefit you as a volunteer as you’ll be placed in a role that suites your skills and interests.

By asking for application forms, resumes or cover letters the non-profit will learn more about your skills and experience related to the volunteer position. Interviews especially are a great way for them to learn more about your passion for the cause, your interest in the role and your strengths.

If you want to volunteer to help seniors, children, people with disabilities or others who might be considered vulnerable you will be asked to do a police check. The non-profit does this to make sure that they aren’t taking on a volunteer who has a history of hurting people. The non-profit may also ask for references which are other people who can give feedback on your skills and working style.

Here are a few examples to further explain:

  • Petra would like to be a Social Media Volunteer. To apply for the position she needs to send in a resume and cover letter, showcasing examples of social media posts and marketing she’s done before. She'll also need to attend an interview. The non-profit takes these steps to learn more about Petra’s experience and skills to ensure that Petra would represent the non-profit well online.
  • Mark wants to volunteer as a Presenter. For the role he needs to fill in an application form, come to an interview where he does a mock presentation, answer questions about his presentation and then provide two references. The application process includes these steps so the non-profit can learn about the volunteer’s experience, make sure Mark is a good presenter and see if Mark can answer questions well. They also want to speak to other people who know Mark in order to confirm his skills.
  • Rose would like to volunteer as a Friendly Visitor and provide companionship to seniors in their homes. Rose has to send in an application form that includes why she wants this role, she'll also go to two interviews and file a police reference check. This is because the organization wants to make sure that Rose is a friendly and caring person, who will connect well with a senior, and won’t do anything to steal from, harm or hurt the senior she’s visiting.

Margaret, I hope this information is helpful for you. Don’t let the application process stop you from seeking out a great volunteer opportunity. And remember the process exists to make sure you’re a great fit for the role and the role is a great fit for you!

All the best is seeking out 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:  applying to volunteer  Ask Kelly  Frequently Asked Questions  how do I get a volunteer position  How long does it take to find a volunteer position  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  Questions about volunteering  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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10 places you can volunteer to support mental health

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriber Coordinator, December 15, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes | Written by Kasandra James

 

Mental health and mental illness affect people from all walks of life and in countless ways. While confronting mental health can be overwhelming, there are many ways to support mental health as a volunteer and make an impact in other’s lives. Check out these Toronto organizations and find out how you can give your time, skills and abilities to support their mental health programs:

 

Cota supports adults with mental health and cognitive challenges, helping them to live well within their communities. They provide services including supportive housing, short-term residential beds and day programs.

  • Location: Numerous sites across Toronto
  • How you can volunteer: Cota is often recruiting Adult Day Services Assistants who engage clients in meaningful activities to explore their strengths and develop new skills.

Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre is a multi-service agency in Toronto’s West End, providing health and community support services for infants, children, youth and seniors.

  • Location: Davenport Road and Old Weston Road 
  • How you can volunteer: As a Community Dining Assistant, you’ll help with set-up, clean-up and cooking for Wednesday community dinners. 

Family Service Toronto helps people facing a variety of life challenges, by assisting families and individuals through counselling, community development, advocacy and public education programs.

  • Location: Numerous sites across Toronto
  • How you can volunteer: As an Options Program Tutor and Life Skills Coach, you’ll maintain a supportive, friendly relationship with individuals who face mental health challenges. 

Fred Victor fosters long-lasting positive change in the lives of homeless and low-income people living across Toronto. Their services include: affordable housing, emergency shelter, job training and counselling, and community mental health outreach and services.

  • Location: Downtown East, multiple sites
  • How you can volunteer: Arts/Craft Instructors conduct weekly sessions with community members. 

Massey Centre is an infant and early childhood mental health organization supporting pregnant and parenting adolescents, aged 13-25, and their babies. Their programs include pre-and-post natal residential care, primary health care and maternal infant mental health.

  • Location: Broadview Avenue and Danforth Avenue
  • How you can volunteer: Parent Relief Volunteers provide basic child care while young mothers take much-needed breaks or run errands. 

Senior Persons Living Connected (SPLC) provides programs and services that meet the diverse needs of older adults and their caregivers. Services include seniors housing, counselling and social, recreational and fitness programs.

  • Location: Warden Avenue and Finch Avenue
  • How you can volunteer: Friendly Visitors spend time with seniors, engaging in conversation and leisure activities. 

SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health (formerly The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre) combines prevention, treatment, research and education to support children, youth and families facing mental health challenges.

  • Location: Keele St. and Sheppard Avenue West or Jarvis St. and Wellesley St. East
  • How you can volunteer: Research Assistants contribute to CCMH’s inter-disciplinary, evidenced-based mental health treatment and support system. 

The Gatehouse provides support, community and resources for individuals impacted by childhood sexual abuse, including an Investigation Support Program, Art Therapy and the Transforming Trauma Conference.

  • Location: Lakeshore Blvd. and Kipling Avenue
  • How you can volunteer: Give your time as a Peer Support Group Facilitator, supporting those impacted by childhood sexual abuse. 

Victim Services Toronto provides immediate crisis response, intervention and prevention services to individuals, families and communities affected by crime and sudden tragedies. Programs include The Trauma Dog Program, High Risk Support Services and Teens Ending Abusive Relationships (TEAR).

  • Location: Yonge St. and College St.
  • How you can volunteer: Crisis Counsellor Volunteers work alongside professional crisis counsellors to support victims in Toronto. 

Yorktown Family Services is dedicated to providing effective, accessible, quality mental health treatment, prevention and outreach services to children, youth, women and families. The agency is divided into a Child and Family Centre and a Shelter for Women and their children, fleeing abusive relationships.

  • Location: Dufferin St. and Eglinton Avenue West 
  • How you can volunteer: Walk-In Clinic Counsellors bring their professional counselling experience to the Family Centre and Shelter, on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. 

Is your perfect volunteer role not in this list? Most of these organizations have multiple volunteer opportunities, so make sure you visit their websites to find out more. If you still can’t find the right fit, search Volunteer Toronto’s database using the keywords “mental health” or contact our Referral Counsellor at 416-961-6888 x 232 or referral@volunteertoronto.ca.

 


Kasandra JamesAs Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra James is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support. She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circles - discussion groups for managers and coordinators of volunteers, contributes to our Sector Space newsletter and social media communications, and makes sure our subscriptions package continues to help non-profit organizations build capacity through volunteer involvement. 

Tags:  Abuse Stories  Activism  Activists  Anti-Bulling  Frequently Asked Questions  friendly visitor  Give Back  health care volunteer positions  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  Leadership  Make a Difference  Mental Health  Mentorship  Questions about volunteering  skilled volunteering  Skills  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteer leaders  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer 

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Why group volunteering isn't as easy as you think

Posted By Melina Condren, Director of Services for Non-Profits, December 15, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes | Written by Melina Condren

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more for-profit organizations seek out group volunteering in order to boost employee engagement and expand their social responsibility strategies. Unfortunately, finding a volunteer opportunity for your team AND making a big impact with a non-profit partner isn’t always easy.

On a practical level, many non-profits simply don’t have the space to accommodate a crowd of people. In addition to taking a lot of space, it also takes a lot of time and effort to organize team opportunities. Between planning a task, making sure everyone is properly trained, setting up and cleaning up the space, and all the other responsibilities that are part of holding a successful large-scale event, many volunteer managers don’t have the time to invest in group volunteering. Finally, the type of work that can get done by a group in one day isn’t always the type of work that’s needed most.

To make sure your volunteer experience steers clear of these pitfalls, here are five tips to get you started in planning meaningful, high-impact group volunteering:

 

Plan ahead

We get a lot of last-minute inquiries about group volunteer opportunities, but the truth is that many of them fill up months in advance. Start planning early to make sure that you find an opportunity that aligns with your organization’s mission and values, and to give the non-profit you’re working with plenty of time to prepare.

Split up into teams

Finding two volunteer opportunities for twenty people may be easier than finding one opportunity for forty. If you have a large group and you want everyone to volunteer, consider breaking up into smaller teams and helping out a few different causes. You’ll be able to choose from a much wider range of non-profits to work with, since so many can’t accommodate crowds.

Be prepared to donate money, not just time

Engaging large groups of volunteers takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, so the return on investment just isn’t worth it for many non-profits. Be prepared to make a financial contribution to help cover the costs of the staff time and resources that are being invested to make your volunteer experience successful or donate the food and supplies for the program you’re assisting with. For example, if you volunteer to pack welcome bags with toiletries, towels and pyjamas for a shelter, you might be expected to donate the supplies, not just the time it takes to pack them.

Build lasting partnerships

There are many different ways that employers can support volunteering and give back to their communities—not just by having a big, one-day volunteer event. You could organize a recurring fundraising event and donate the proceeds to a charitable partner, getting your employees involved by contributing or helping to coordinate the fundraiser. Or, you could encourage your employees to volunteer individually in ongoing programs for causes they care about, and support them in doing so with flexible work hours or extra time off. You could even volunteer as a team for the same organization each year, helping to plan, staff and provide the supplies for an annual event. Whatever you choose to do, making an ongoing commitment to a non-profit that goes beyond a single day of service is one of the best ways to make a meaningful impact.

Learn best practices

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably want to learn more about how to incorporate volunteering into your organization. As a next step, I recommend taking a look at the Canadian Code for Employer Supported Volunteering. It’s a great resource put together by Volunteer Canada that provides guidance to help you establish or improve an employer supported volunteer program.

 

Group volunteering isn’t easy, but when it’s done well it can be a great way to make a difference and give back. By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a volunteer experience that your team, and the non-profit you support, will be grateful for.

 

  Melina oversees all of Volunteer Toronto's services for organizations, including our training program, volunteer management conference, subscriptions program, and new Grassroots Growth project. Her priority is to ensure our services are effectively helping non-profits build capacity through volunteer involvement and continue to meet the ever-evolving needs of the voluntary sector.

Tags:  Activism  applying to volunteer  Career  City of Toronto Development  Event Volunteering  Give Back  group volunteering  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  How to volunteer to help the homeless  Leadership  Make a Difference  Office Volunteer  poverty reduction  Questions about volunteering  short-term volunteering  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Skills  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  volunteer engagement  volunteer for one day  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer in group  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteer leaders  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  volunteers  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer  Work 

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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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The How-To for a First-Time Volunteer: Ace it, Enjoy it.

Posted By Helen Lin, Youth Auditor, October 23, 2016
Updated: October 22, 2016
Teens heart shape 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

 

Once I was a shy, naive, volunteering newbie…

But since then I’ve woken up at 5am for shifts, dedicated hundreds of hours of service, experienced volunteering at a handful of nonprofit organizations...and made every mistake in the book.

Now that you’ve been to the Youth Expo and gotten a good sense of what nonprofits and roles are out there, the time has come to volunteer. Volunteering is so different from going to school, because now you’re actually faced with real world challenges!

Here are 6 tips to help reduce the challenges, so you’re just left with facing the real world. (Sorry, there’s nothing I can do about that; you’ll have to face it sooner or later.)

 

1. Pre-Shift Reflection: Did You Pick the Right Volunteer Position?

There’s nothing worse than not enjoying your first shift, especially since volunteering is supposed to be both fun and meaningful. Before you agree to volunteer with an organization long-term or even short-term, make sure it fits you!

 

 

 

2. Be Prepared and Be On Time.

So you’ve decided to commit to an organization? Great! The best way to show your commitment is by reading up on that volunteer manual (if available) as well as arriving on time or earlier. Don’t be that one volunteer who runs in panting and sweating because they’re 10 minutes late.

 

 

3. Make a Good Impression

First step to first impressions is following #2: Be Prepared, Be On Time. The most impressive first-time volunteers I’ve seen are the ones who walk in already knowing what to expect. Also, do your best to be enthusiastic and follow your supervisor’s directions. If you can do that, you’ll look super dedicated, the volunteer manager will love you, and you might even be asked to help other volunteers who might be experiencing difficulties.

 

4. Don’t Be Shy

Spark conversations. Ask questions. Make friends. Volunteering is so much more enjoyable when you’re with people you’re comfortable with. Being friendly plays a big part in making a good first impression. It may be awkward at first, but trust me, try your best to step out of your comfort zone and initiate a conversation with a fellow volunteer or the manager.
Don’t be shy, Awesome > Comfort Zone.

 

 

5.You Did It, Be Proud!

Has it been three hours already? I hope it was a good experience. Whether you’re doing this for your community service hours, or because your parents made you, pat yourself on the back. You have just taken a big step into the world of social responsibility. It also doesn't hurt to talk about it on social media, the organization you volunteer with would greatly appreciate the exposure especially if you tag them! 

 

 

6. Post-Shift Reflection: Again, Did You Pick the Right Position?

Time for a metacognitive analysis! I mean, self-reflection. How do you feel? If you liked it, hooray! If you didn’t, no problem. Not everything is going to be all rainbows and sunshine, so if this wasn’t the right organization/position for you, don’t worry. Let your volunteer manager know and give as much notice as possible. Hopefully you signed up for more than one organization at the Youth Expo though… if not, Volunteer Toronto has your back.

 

On behalf of staff at Volunteer Toronto, the Youth Advisory Committee, the volunteers who helped put on the event, and the organizations that attended, thanks for coming to the 2016 Youth Expo!

 


Helen Lin is a Grade 10 student at Marc Garneau Collegiate and she is a Youth Auditor at Volunteer Toronto. She started formally volunteering at age 12, and hasn't stopped her community involvement since. Helen has also volunteered for SickKids Foundation, TEDxYouth@Toronto, Ladies Learning Code, and Baycrest Hospital. Her passions include gender rights, sustainable development, global health, social innovation, engineering, and entrepreneurship.


 

Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  40 hours  getting your 40 hours  How to get your 40 hours  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering  Youth volunteers 

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Ask Kelly - What is a Referral Counsellor?

Posted By Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator, August 15, 2016
Updated: August 12, 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



Dear Kelly,

 

I heard that Volunteer Toronto has Referral Counsellors we can meet with one-on-one to talk about our volunteer interests. What exactly happens in this meeting?

Antoniette

 



Hello Antoniette,

Thank you so much for your email and your interest in our Referral Counsellor services at Volunteer Toronto.

Referral Counsellor Vivian helping a client at Volunteer Toronto
 Referral Counsellor Vivian (right) helping a client

Our Referral Counsellors are wonderful volunteers who come in one day a week to support people who are looking to volunteer. The Referral Counsellors are knowledgeable about volunteering and are here to answer your questions and provide suggestions of where to apply. This can be done in-person, over the phone or through email.

If you contact a Referral Counsellor they will ask questions to further understand what kind of opportunity you are interested in and will follow our Reflect, Research and Reach Out model for finding a suitable position. They will also show you how to navigate the website and provide tips for searching through our volunteer opportunities database. There is no need to bring anything along with you to the appointment, but I do encourage you to think a bit about what you’re interested in.

The Referral Counsellors aim to provide 4-6 suggestions of opportunities to apply to based on our current listings.

After speaking with a Referral Counsellor it is up to you to take the initiative and apply directly to the organization you are interested in. This is listed under the “How to Apply/Contact” section of each listing. Please note that the Referral Counsellor will not match you directly with any opportunities, nor do they do any of the screening for the position.

After providing suggestions of opportunities and helping answer your questions, the Referral Counsellors will strive to ensure that you understand the next steps in the application process.

Our goal at Volunteer Toronto is that people feel empowered to begin volunteering and the Referral Counsellors are a large part of making that happen! Feel free to contact a Referral Counsellor if you have questions or need some assistance while looking for a volunteer position. They can be reached at 416-961-6888 ext 232 or referral@volunteertoronto.ca.

Thanks so much for your excellent question Antoniette!

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:  Help finding a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  Referral Counsellor  volunteer  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer Toronto services 

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5 Ways to Complete Your High School Community Service Hours This Summer

Posted By Jessica Huynh, Outreach Summer Student, August 1, 2016
Updated: July 29, 2016

High School Community Service Hours”

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As we enter August sun-kissed and carefree, the realization of another school year drawing close reminds us of those high school community service hours we (still) have left to complete! Was volunteering on your summer to do list?

Summer is a great time to meet interesting people, develop new skills, and attend events you may have otherwise not known about. Whether you have 5 more hours or the full 40 to knock-off, here’s a list of summer event opportunities that are geared towards high school students.

Slather on some sunscreen and round up your friend, summer isn’t over and neither is your chance to squeeze in some community service! We present to you 5 Ways to Complete Your High School Community Service Hours This Summer:

 

Belmont House - Summerfest 

1. SPECIAL EVENTS VOLUNTEER - SUMMERFEST

Organization: Belmont House


Post Link
: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=311453


Date needed
: Wednesday, 10 August, 2016 (10:30 AM- 3 PM)


Location
: Downtown Toronto – 55 Belmont Street near Bay and Bloor

It’s not Bestival or WayHome, but Summerfest is a celebrative event for elderly residents of the Belmont House. Belmont House is a charity that has been creating a caring environment for seniors for over 150 years! This special event is looking to take on 30 volunteers to assist with their interactive event. Bringing together residents, families, and tenants, it promises to provide a day of food and fun! As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Helping run games

-       Interacting with residents

-       Serving food &

-       Completing various assigned tasks

Interested? Email Purni Rahman, the Development and Volunteer Coordinator at prahman@belmonthouse.comor call 416-964-9231 ext. 220! No resume or cover letter mentioned in posting.

 

 

Habitat For Humanity Build 

2. BUILD SITE VOLUNTEER HOST

Organization: Habitat for Humanity GTA

Post Link: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=379235


Date(S) needed
: 11, 17, 18, & 25 August 2016 (8-4p)


Location
: Scarborough – Birchmount Road & Brampton


Who doesn’t love free refreshments, lunch, and t-shirts? In addition to these lovely incentives, your dedication as a Build Site Volunteer Host will contribute to helping provide low-income families the opportunity to build and buy affordable, quality home. As of April 2014, Habitat for Humanity GTA has built over 270 affordable within Toronto!  Through special events occurring throughout August, your friendly and professional attitude will be of assistance to the organization. As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Supporting registrations

-       Setting up breakfast, lunch, and fun activities for volunteer groups

-       Taking photographs and distributing prizes

-       Cleaning up and preparing for the next event

-       And more!


Super Car Sunday 

3. SUPER CAR SUNDAY VOLUNTEER (VARIOUS ROLES)

Organization: Women’s College Hospital Foundation

Post Links:

1.     VIP AREA:
http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375577

2.     SUNDAY TEAR DOWN ASSISTANT: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375423

3.     SET UP ASSISTANT: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375416

4.     ADMIN SUPPORT:
http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375563

5.     MAIN GATE HOST:
http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375443

6.     BBQ PREPARATION: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375441


Date needed
: Sunday, August 21, 2016 (various times), Orientation on Tuesday, 9 August 2016 @ Women’s College Hospital (various times)


Location
: Downtown Toronto – 11 Sunlight Park Road near Queen and Broadview


This opportunity will drive you wild! Supercar Sunday is an annual event presented by BMW Toronto and Saturns Drives. It features over 100 exotic and expensive cars from brands such as Lamborghini and Ferrari. All proceeds will be donated to the Women’s College Hospital’s Orthopedic Surgery program. They are currently looking to take on a wide range volunteers to fill their open positions. Please see posting links above to find out more about what each position entails!

Resumes can be emailed to Todd.Perry@wchospital.ca with the subject title: Supercar Sunday *POSITION NAME*.

 

Back to school event volunteer 

4. BACK TO SCHOOL EVENT VOLUNTEER


Organization
: New Circles Community Services


Post Link
: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=223865


Date needed
: August 27, 2016 (9:45-1pm or 1-4pm)


Location
: North York – 161 Bartley Drive near Eglinton Avenue East and Bermondsey Road


Going back to school is a great excuse to pick out new wardrobe staples and replace old, outgrown pieces. However, not everyone has access to basic necessities many of us take for granted. New Circles Community Services is a non-profit organization whose core mission is to provide basic necessities to those living in poverty, primarily through adequate clothing and support. At their annual Teen Back to School Event, they are looking for 6 volunteers to help support their mission. As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Helping teens shop

-       Organizing and tidying clothing areas

-       Checking out the garments

-       Giving out new backpacks

Interested? Email poppy@newcircles.caNo resume or cover letter mentioned in posting. 


Phone Campaign Volunteer 

6. PHONE CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER


Organization
: Community Living Toronto


Post Link
: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=380118


Date needed
: 8-12 & 15-19 August 2016 (Anytime from 10 AM- 4 PM)

Location: 20 Spadina Road, Bloor and Spadina


Had enough sun or nurturing your sunburn? Phone Campaign Volunteer might be the position for you. As part of Community Living Toronto’s Donor Thank-a-thon, you will work alongside the fundraising department to make phone calls to thank those who financially donated towards their organization. This opportunity is perfect for students who want to gain customer service experience in an office setting! Community Living Toronto supports those living with intellectual disability find accessible ways to live within their community.

They are looking to take on 2-3 volunteers. As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Having good phone and customer service manner

-       Showcasing strong English communication skills

-       Being able to follow a script and training guidelines

-       Speaking clearly on the phone

Full day volunteers will be provided a lunch! Interested? Contact Yulia Prudova, Volunteer Coordinator, at yprudova@cltoronto.ca or at 416-968-0650 Ext 1209

 

If the opportunities above are not of your interest, be sure to check out all our postings at volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities. We recommend leaving all the spaces empty and filtering your search by clicking on ‘1. Suitable for Youth 14-17.’

Now get out there and spread some summer volunteer lovin’! 


Attend any of our free information sessions on volunteering in Toronto!

Jessica Huynh

Jessica Huynh is a Creative Industries Student at Ryerson University, specializing in Storytelling in Media and Curatorial Practices. She is interested in visual culture and stimulating intellectual conversation through language and design. View her online portfolio or Connect with her on LinkedIn!


 

 

Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  40 hours community service  High school volunteer hours  Teen volunteering  Volunteer hours  Volunteer in Toronto 

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...The Egale Youth OUTreach Counselling Centre

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, May 24, 2016
Updated: May 24, 2016

 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, and two-spirited (LGBTIQ2S) children and youth up to age 29 who are homeless, unstably housed, or at risk of homelessness or who are in need of a space in which to feel welcome and supported

When homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, violence and harassment combine with the experience of homelessness and other stressors, they take their toll on mental health and overall well-being. The Egale Youth OUTreach Counselling Centre (EYO) provides direct services to LGBTIQ2S youth to help address these challenges.

So, what part can you play in this organization?  According to Jesse Hatch, a Peer Resource Worker with the EYO, it can be as simple as playing a game of Uno or watching a movie! She states that peer support can come in uncommon but valid forms.  Below, Jesse shares her experience volunteering at the EYO.

Describe your role as a Peer Resource Worker.

JH: My role is focused on offering peer support and aiding in the preparation of fresh, nourishing meals and snacks for our service-users. I strive to create meaningful, healthy relationships with the youth and facilitate referrals to relevant and desired services whenever possible.

 

What is the time commitment involved?

JH: A regular shift at Egale is 4 hours weekly during the drop in hours of
3 p.m.-7p.m. On average, I volunteer for 16 hours a month. 

 

What type of training were you provided with?

JH: Egale provides informative and thorough training before you enter the space to volunteer. The training familiarizes volunteers with the appropriate use of language, boundaries and etiquette when interacting with service-users and is delivered through a harm reduction lens.

 

What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your role?

JH: Compassion and patience are crucial when interacting with people in crisis. It is important to be mindful of boundaries when interacting with service-users, while striving to provide the highest level of empathic support and care. For example, using inclusive language or actively engaging when an individual is relaying a personal experience or asking for your advice.

 

What have you learned from this volunteering experience?

JH: This experience has taught me the value of self-awareness and mindfulness when interacting with new people. Volunteering at the EYO reminds me that we should unpack what we bring into our interactions with others and examine the cursory assumptions we make about people.

 

What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

JH: Critically analyze why you are drawn to a position before applying. You will likely thrive in this position if you feel like you might be suited for it, are drawn to it by personal experiences with queerness, have an interest in intersectionality and trauma-informed care and have a desire to help your community.

If you are interested in working with an organization with the following values:


·      LGBTIQ2S Affirming

·      Client Centric Service

·      Youth Empowerment

·      Strengths-Based Approach

·      Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression

·      Non-Judgment

·      Community and Collaboration


Contact Egale at 416-964-7887 or visit the Egale Website to learn about the various volunteer roles available and read some Frequently Asked Questions about the organization. 

 

Samantha Glave is a writer and editor whose work is regularly published on the Ontario Public Service’s intranet. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching science-fiction, doing kettle bell workouts or reading the latest research on raising the ‘strong-willed’ child. She lives in Toronto with her husband and their six-year old son. 

You can find her on LinkedIn

Tags:  Human Rights  LGBT Rights  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support 

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Ask Kelly - How Do I Find Out About Volunteering For Special Events?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator, May 16, 2016
Updated: May 13, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our new 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: 4 minutes

Dear Kelly,

 

My birthday is coming up soon, and I would love to spend the day volunteering for something fun! How do I find out about volunteering for special events?

Thanks so much,

LaKeisha

 

 



Hey LaKeisha,

What a wonderful email and question to receive. I am so glad you are interested in spending your birthday volunteering for a great cause! As we enter the spring and summer you’ll find there are many special events looking for volunteers.

Some examples of current special event volunteer opportunities include setting up for large events, assisting at registration, taking photos, cheering on runners at a race, planting trees, serving meals,  performing at festivals and so much more!

The easiest way to find special event volunteer opportunities is to:

1. Go to www.volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities.



2. Leave all search categories blank except under “Type of Position” select “One Day or Less."

3. Click “Search."


 

4. Your results will bring up all Special Event Volunteer opportunities currently in our database.



5. You can then read through and choose positions that interest you. By clicking on them you’ll learn more information about the position.


Once you've settled on a position that fits your interest, time and location, please contact the organization directly either by email or phone depending on the information they posted in the position’s details.  The contact information is generally listed at the bottom of the posting.

TIP: It is always best to apply to more than one volunteer position to widen your chances of getting a position.

I also encourage you to create a profile on our website so you can receive our Volunteer Times newsletter to learn more about volunteer opportunities across the city. 

If you need any additional help feel free to call a Referral Counsellor at 416-961-6888 ext 232 who can help you navigate the website and answer any specific questions you have. 

Thanks again for your question. I hope you have an absolutely wonderful birthday! 

Best, 

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:  one-day events  volunteer  volunteer for birthday  volunteer for one day  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  volunteering on special events 

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...Habitat For Humanity

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, May 10, 2016
Updated: May 9, 2016

 

Photo courtesy of Habitat For Humanity GTA

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Having a safe and decent place to live is a basic human right. Yet there are 1.6 million Canadian families in need of safe, clean and affordable shelter but are forced to decide between heat and rent – a choice no family should ever have to make.

 
 Keith Perrin (left) and volunteer

Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area is a non-profit organization that envisions a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Their work focuses on mobilizing volunteers and community partners to help hardworking, low income families break the cycle of poverty through affordable homeownership. Volunteers are the heart and soul of their work and each year 10,000 volunteers contribute over 100,000 hours to support the organization. One of their most well-known volunteer activities involves helping to build a home for a family.

Intrigued by what’s involved? Volunteer Toronto spoke with Keith Perrin, a volunteer with a background in sales and management, who rolled up his sleeves to help the cause and has helped many families along the way.

 

What is your current role at Habitat for Humanity GTA?

I’m the Volunteer Crew Leader

 

How long have you volunteered with this organization?

For more than three years.

 

How would you describe your current volunteer role?

Habitat for Humanity helps break the cycle of poverty for our partner families by providing a path to home ownership that would not otherwise be financially feasible.

We construct new build homes using volunteer labour, except where a licensed tradesperson is needed. Since volunteers perform primary framing, insulation, flooring and numerous other construction tasks, we are able to produce a quality home at a low construction cost.

Volunteers typically have no construction experience and must be taught the skills required to perform the task assigned for their day on the site, and be supervised throughout the day. This is a great learning experience, and opportunity to lend skills to a good cause in a hands-on fashion.

As a Volunteer Crew Leader, I teach construction skills, perform construction tasks and direct volunteers as they work on the home.

 

What is the time commitment involved?

For the past three years, I have averaged 500 hours per year. My frequency varies from as many as 3 to 4 days per week in the spring and fall, to a more staggered schedule in the summer and winter when vacation intervenes. As an organization, Habitat works with "what you can do, when you can do it" rather than a fixed commitment.

Many people only volunteer once, often as part of a corporate or community group. Some volunteers become regulars, and participate a few times per month. Regulars can graduate to the "Crew Program", in which they have expanded responsibility and assist less experienced volunteers. Some Crew Program members go on to become Crew Leaders if they show the desire, ability and commitment to more regular participation.

 

What does training consist of? How long does it last?

Training at Habitat occurs on the job, as it’s the only practical way to learn to build a house. I’ve been a Crew Leader for three years and a day never goes by that I don't still learn something from another volunteer.

Learning and teaching construction skills is a fundamental part of the Habitat model. Habitat people are extremely generous with their knowledge. Knowledge sharing is an integral part of the Habitat spirit.

 

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

I was initially shocked at how little I knew about actual construction. I always thought of myself as a handy guy, but it turned out I knew zero about building a real house. Mercifully Habitat people are incredibly generous with their knowledge.

I was also surprised to realize how much teaching and leadership is involved, and how weak my skills were. I spent my career in management, but I quickly realized that everyone I managed already knew their jobs!

At Habitat every day brings a new cohort of volunteers who generally have a great spirit, but no knowledge. I can say that my teaching and leadership skills are better today than they were before I retired, but don't tell my old employer that!

 

What have you learned from your volunteering?

Obviously, I’ve learned how to build houses. But the greater, and somewhat surprising thing I’ve learned is how to teach and lead people.

As Crew Leaders we spend some time discussing the construction process, but we spend far more time discussing the best ways to teach volunteers with no experience how to perform a required task effectively.

It’s critical that we teach inexperienced volunteers new tasks early in the morning, so that they can be productive and self-sufficient by the midday coffee break if we are to have a successful day.

 

How have the skills/knowledge you’ve gained through your volunteering transferred into other areas of your life?

There’s no doubt I am a better builder since joining Habitat, but I have also become the "go to" guy amongst everyone I know for an answer to a technical home question!

 

What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteering that you do?

People think Habitat builds houses and gives them away, and this is not the case. Habitat’s motto is  "We give a hand up, not a hand out”.

Partner families (who will be living in the home) begin by passing a rigorous qualification process. They then have to give 500 hours of volunteer time to their home construction in lieu of a down payment. The house is sold to the partner family at its full market value, and Habitat provides a 100% first mortgage at zero interest with a repayment schedule geared to income.

The partner family must earn their way into an equity position in the property by paying down that mortgage. Were they to choose to sell the property after paying down only 10% of the mortgage, they would be entitled to only 10% of the equity in the home, including any appreciation in market value. This is a long term commitment for the partner family. When we say the partner family is in partnership with Habitat, we mean it!

 

What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

Give it a try! It's physically demanding, and although it may not feel like it at first, it's a big benefit. I am 67 years old and am in the best shape I've been in the last 25 years! It also provides a great mental workout - construction is essentially one long problem-solving exercise, and it has improved my math skills significantly.

More than anything: come with an open mind willing to learn, teach and meet new and interesting people.

 

 

 

Melissa Haughton is a recent graduate who currently works in marketing. She is passionate about writing, cats and helping out in the community. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Tags:  Construction volunteers  Habitat for Humanity  poverty reduction  Toronto  volunteer in construction  Volunteer in Toronto 

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...An Environmental Organization?

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, March 14, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Climate change is a hot issue these days, and the Canadian government recently announced what they’ll be doing to minimize the effects of climate change. Besides the commitments made in Ottawa, there are many local organizations working to make their neighbourhoods greener and cleaner. One of them is Transition Toronto.

 

 Casey McNeil
 Volunteer, Casey McNeill

Transition Toronto is the local chapter of the global Transition Movement, which exists to help communities rely less on oil, coal and natural gas, and create strategies to actively fight climate change locally. There are a number of chapters worldwide, helping to make the world a greener place.

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer for an environmental organization, wonder no more! We spoke with Casey McNeill, a volunteer at Transition Toronto, to give you the inside scoop.

 

 

 

 

What’s your volunteer role at Transition Toronto?

CM: I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for TreeMobile, a project of Transition Toronto that supplies and delivers fruit trees and plants at low cost to people in Toronto. It’s run entirely by volunteers and is designed to empower people to achieve food security by planting and growing their own food as well as to increase the local tree canopy which has many environmental and personal benefits.

 

How long have you been volunteering for Transition Toronto?

CM: 3 years.

 


What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteer work?


CM: To be successful you need to be a team player who is willing to collaborate with others. Administrative and organizational skills are also really important. It’s also great for people who like to take initiative to get things done.

 


What do you like most about volunteering for Transition Toronto?

CM: I like that we are doing something to help combat food insecurity in Toronto. This means giving people access to local, nutritious food. I also like that we are increasing Toronto’s tree canopy, which helps keep our air clean. And the people I work with are awesome!

 

 

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer experience?

CM: The number of youth interested in volunteering with Transition Toronto each year has been surprising, in a good way. They really like our TreeMobile program and planting trees in local communities.  It’s awesome to see that they don't mind getting their hands a little dirty to help out their community!

 

 

What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteering that you do?


CM: People think that planting trees and shrubs [for the TreeMobile program] is simple as getting a few people together, grabbing a few cars and hitting the road. TreeMobile requires many months of preparation, planning and organization.

 

If you’d like to get out and fight climate change in your community, considering joining the Transition Toronto volunteer team. You can visit their website or sign up to volunteer for the Tree Mobile project.

 

Melissa Haughton is a recent graduate who currently works in marketing. She is passionate about writing, cats and helping out in the community. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Tags:  Environmentalism  environmentalist  tree planting  volunteer for the environment  volunteer in Toronto  volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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