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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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Meet Our Team: David Allen

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, November 14, 2016
Updated: November 11, 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 and Sammy Feilchenfeld, our Training Coordinator. 

Next up... our Executive Director!

 
 David Allen

WHO: David Allen

ROLE: Executive Director

# OF YEARS AT VT: About 3

PLACE OF BIRTH: Toronto, Ontario

FAVOURITE SONG: "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal

FAVOURITE QUOTE: 

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak: courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." - Winston Churchill

 

What do you do at Volunteer Toronto? 

I oversee the day-to-day operations of Volunteer Toronto including program delivery, financial control, human resources, funder relations and compliance with legislation. I also work with the Board of Directors in setting policy and strategic direction for the organization

 

 

What do you like most about your job?

Working with young, energetic staff. They bring to the workplace extraordinary creativity, teamwork and technological know-how. I am constantly learning from them.

 

 

What was your most enjoyable volunteer experience?

I would regularly visit shut-ins on behalf of my church. Social interaction is important to people as they age and lose mobility. It keeps them engaged in the community. I love hearing their stories of yesteryear and receiving their sage advice.

 

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

I like to sing. In my youth I performed lead roles in many musical theatre productions and choirs.

 

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

I am embarrassed to say that I could not do without sugar. I love sweets, especially real maple syrup and Hershey candy cane kisses.


 

 

 

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

Despite today's paperless high tech world, I prefer to work with hard copies. In my desk drawer you will find well-used reference books such as the Yellow Pages Directory, Oxford Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus. You'll also find stacks of printed documents waiting to be filed.

 

 

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:  avid Allen Executive Director  avid Allen Volunteer Toronto  ho is David Allen?  Volunteer Toronto Staff 

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Why You Need To Get A Head Start On Your Holiday Volunteering

Posted By Ainsley Kendrick, November 4, 2016
Updated: November 4, 2016
 Holiday volunteering opportunities

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

 

Halloween is over. The costumes are stored away and the candy is down to the last packet of Rockets and straggling Tootsie rolls. Stores have started unpacking their holiday decorations, getting ready to bombard the masses with tinsel, spinning dreidels and wreaths of inordinate sizes. Every year I think to myself, “Are they really decorating now?” but I am starting to realize they’ve gotten it right.

If you’re like me, you enjoy getting your shopping done early to avoid the long lines, repetitive music and over-abundance of good cheer. The same should go for your holiday volunteering activities.

Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who call us on Christmas Eve, hoping to find a place to volunteer. Although well intentioned, many believe it’s possible to just show up at a soup kitchen or shelter to donate their time. Sadly, times have changed and it’s not the reality anymore. There are a limited number of volunteer roles available over the holidays and most get snapped up even before December has even started.

It’s not that organizations don’t want or need the help, it’s that they could use it year-round, not just during the holiday season. Most charities are looking for passionate, reliable, dedicated volunteers who are willing to give their time throughout the year to support their cause. These are often the volunteers who are anointed with the coveted holiday shifts. They know the staff, have been properly trained and are comfortable with the in’s and out’s of the organization.

"Often, the generosity that many of our program participants receive around the holidays is so great that it can be very difficult for them in the new year when the holiday meals, special donations and influx of volunteers taper off. The new year can be a cold and difficult time of year particularly for those who are homeless or precariously housed. Many holiday volunteers don’t realize this, and if they did, some might change the way/time of year they volunteer as a result."

- Kaleigh Wisman, Community Relations Coordinator
at West Neighbourhood House

 

So, I suggest taking all the enthusiasm to give back that you get as December approaches and consider volunteering not just for a day but for a few months or longer. If that won’t do, and you are set on volunteering over the holiday season, then set yourself up for success by contacting organizations NOW. Don’t wait until the last minute! Check out our Holiday Volunteering page and you’ll find some great opportunities to give back in the lead up to the big day.  If you’re too late and can’t find anything, think local. Research charities in your area then call or email them directly to see if they will need help.

When you properly plan both you and the organization you support will have a positive experience, making everyone’s holiday season an extraordinary one.    

Ainsley Kendrick is the creative voice behind Volunteer Toronto's external communications. She manages their website and social media channels as well as works with all departments to develop key collateral and messaging. Her mission is to reach the furthest corners of the city to let people know about Volunteer Toronto's programs and services. 

 

Tags:  Christmas volunteering  holiday volunteer opportunities  Holiday Volunteering  holiday volunteers  How do I volunteer at Christmas  How to volunteer during Christmas  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer holidays 

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5 Quotes To Help Inspire You To Make A Difference

Posted By Mia Naylor, Guest Blogger, October 24, 2016
Updated: October 21, 2016
 Volunteer Quotes

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Sometimes we need a little inspiration, comforting encouragement to help us feel connected and provide context for the life we live. The world is complex, filled with a myriad of choices and paths to take. When you decide to give freely of your time, for whatever reason, it can steer you in a new direction or affirm your choices. Just by giving your time, you can be part of something bigger than yourself and your actions can have a ripple effect.

 

We've compiled five sharable volunteer quotes in images! We hope that

they'll inspire you to volunteer and truly make a difference for your community. Feel free to share, save, and print these images and spread the joy!

 

Volunteer quotes - volunteering has no destination. The roads you can take are endless.

 "Volunteering has no destination. The roads you can take are endless."

Fiona Kovacaji - Volunteer with the Bata Show Museum“I started volunteering as a way of giving back to the community. As a student, it can feel like you’re constantly taking; from your parents, OSAP… etc and not contributing too much back to society. Volunteering is my way of making a contribution plus I’ve discovered new passions that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. When I began volunteering at Bata Shoe Museum I fell in love with museum work and it has inspired me to pursue a career in Museum Education.”

Fiona Kovacaji 
Volunteer Docent with the Bata Show Museum

 

 Volunteer quote - The greatest gift you can give is time.

"The greatest gift you can give is time."

 

Erica Whyte - Volunteer with Jesse's Centre“I love kids, and I am very goofy, so every day that I am volunteering I try to make it as fun and as exciting as possible. We dress up in crazy clothes and we sing songs and have dance parties. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing those kids smile and laugh, so I do whatever I can to make that happen.”

 

 

 Erica Whyte
Parent Child Centre Volunteer with Jesse’s Centre

 

 Volunteer Quote - Be part of something bigger than yourself

"Be part of something bigger than yourself."

 

Rod Rodney“This particular volunteer experience was unplanned but a result of an inquiry at my sailing Club about involving kids in boatworks. The Club, which supports Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders, shared with me the charity’s contact information and over time I became more involved. Why not volunteer? Seemed like the right thing to do, meet good people, show the kids what possibilities exist and use my knowledge and experience to create social change.”

 

 Captain Ron
Volunteer Sailing Instructor with Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders

 

 

 Volunteer Quote - Small acts when multiplied can transform the world

"Small acts when multiplied can transform the world."

 

Veronica Seeto - Volunteer with TRIEC“I am proud to say my work with International IT professionals has helped them to re-establish their careers in Canada opening so many opportunities to them and their families. Many of my mentees have gone on to contribute back to the community.”

 

 

 

Veronica Seeto
Volunteer Mentor with TRIEC

 

Jessica Huynh

Mia is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, where she is studying Political Science and Ethics, Society & Law. She is interested in the reformation of our justice system and loves petting dogs. You can connect with her on LinkedIn

 

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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 - Can I Use My Financial Experience To Volunteer At A Bank?

Posted By Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator, October 11, 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

Hello Kelly,

I am interested in volunteering for a bank to use my financial experience. I am having trouble finding a bank I can volunteer at. Can you please help me? 

 Sincerely,

Arshna

 


 

Hello, Arshna

Thank you so much for your email. I am glad to hear that you are interested in volunteering. To answer your question, no you cannot volunteer in a bank.  

The reason for this is that banks are for-profit companies. For-profit companies are businesses that seek to make revenue. Some examples of for-profits include banks, tech companies, engineering firms, and retail stores. You cannot volunteer at these companies. 

At Volunteer Toronto we promote volunteer opportunities at non-profit organizations.

Non-profits are organizations that exist to serve a cause or a community. They do not exist to make money. There are many non-profits across our city. Their purpose could include reducing worldwide hunger, providing tutoring in the community or promoting caring for the environment. The opportunities are endless! All the volunteer opportunities you can find on our website are with non-profit organizations.

If you would like to volunteer and use your financial experience, a few possibilities include:

  • Volunteering on a committee that needs someone with a financial background (Category: Boards/Committees)
  • Assisting an organization with a fundraising campaign (Category: Fundraising)
  • Mentoring a newcomer or youth who wants to learn more about the finance field (Category: Counselling/Mentoring)

If you need any additional assistance I encourage you tosign-up for our newsletter, attend an information session or contact a Referral Counsellor.

Many thanks Arshna,

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:  skilled volunteering  Toronto  Volunteer  volunteer in a bank  volunteer in a profession  volunteering 

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Meet Our Team: Sammy Feilchenfeld

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, October 3, 2016
Updated: September 30, 2016

 

Estimated reading time: 4 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, our Director of Engaging Organizations, Melina Condren, and Kelly DeVries, our Community Engagement Coordinator.

Next up... our Training Coordinator!

 
 Sammy Feilchenfeld

WHO: Sammy Feilchenfeld

ROLE: Training Coordinator

# OF YEARS AT VT: About 2

PLACE OF BIRTH: Toronto, Ontario

FAVOURITE QUOTE: 

"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space."

- Thomas Carlyle, by way of Carl Sagan ("Contact")

 

What do you do at Volunteer Toronto? 

As the Training Coordinator, I provide in-person workshops and online training for the people who recruit and manage volunteers at non-profits. I prepare resources to help organizations engage volunteers, plan our annual VECTor Conference for volunteer managers, and provide advice and guidance around legislation, policies and more!

 

What do you like most about your job?

The opportunity to meet all the great volunteer managers from across the city and get a sense of the challenges (and triumphs) they face every day. I love training, leading and facilitating, so being able to help people overcome their challenges and see new potential always brings me joy. Plus I get to learn a lot about website design and development for my online learning!

 

What was your most enjoyable volunteer experience?

Throughout most of my university career, I ran a moderately successful theatre company. During my final year, I wrote and directed my first musical and devoted basically every minute of free time to the project. As a volunteer experience, I was able to learn a lot of new things (including that a life in the theatre wasn't for me) but also get a lot of rewards, including 600 happy audience members after the performances, and to share in great satisfaction with the other 50 volunteers I worked with!

 

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

I've been playing the mandolin for almost 10 years and released an album and 2 EPs. Also in the winter I like to crochet, but I can pretty much only make hats.


 

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

Peanut butter (natural creamy only) - this is my daily staple and has probably been my favourite food as long as I can remember. None of that added sugar, salt and oil though...peanuts are all I need!


 

 

 

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

I have a surprising amount of Lego for when I'm trying to solve a particularly challenging problem. It doesn't come out too much, but when it does my mind goes wild!

 

 

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.

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What's It Like To Volunteer As... A Friendly Visitor?

Posted By Kate Baird, Volunteer Guest Blogger, September 19, 2016

Kensington Gardens - Friendly Visitor 
Photo courtesy of Kensington Gardens

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

 

Volunteering is a great way to make new connections, but one popular position provides a unique chance to give and grow at the same time. Friendly visiting is a meaningful way to come together with people outside your normal social circle, and make a difference in their lives.

Friendly visitors provide company to people at risk of isolation. They might share a pot of tea with seniors who live alone, play a game of cards with adults facing health problems, or stop in for a chat with those who have mobility challenges.

Amalia Caballero
Amalia Caballero

Nineteen-year-old Amalia Caballero is a friendly visitor at Kensington Gardens, a not-for-profit long-term care home in the heart of the city. Amalia took the time to share some of her friendly visiting experiences with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would you describe your current volunteer role to someone who has not heard of your organization and has never volunteered before?

At the Kensington Gardens, our main goal is to provide quality care for all the residents. I visit a few of them every week to have meaningful conversations and participate in stimulating activities together..

 

What is the time commitment involved?


I typically volunteer two hours every week.

 

Can you tell us about the training provided?

Training consists of online modules that are constantly being updated. There is also in-person training that ensures we can safely interact with residents. The online modules can be completed at your own pace, while the in-person training lasts two hours.

 

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

In order for friendly visits to be successful, one must be really patient and truly enjoy interacting with new people every day.

 

What have you learned from your volunteering?

I believe that by volunteering at Kensington Gardens, I have learned to listen to the people that surround me. I now understand that words carry a huge value, and they are wasted when no one stops to listen.

 

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

The most challenging experience is accepting that not all residents wish to have a friendly visitor. Some residents are happier with a nice bed and a good nap!

 

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

People believe that working with seniors is boring, but I can assure them that the residents have the funniest stories and anecdotes to share.


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

I would advise anyone who wants to volunteer as a friendly visitor to find a nursing home that resonates with him or her. The most important thing about visiting residents is to be happy, and this can only happen if you enjoy going to the facility!.


What do you like most about volunteering for this Kensington Gardens? 

I love volunteering at Kensington Gardens, because this is where I have met the most amazing people! The residents that I visit bring a smile to my face every time I see them.

 

Are you interested in becoming a Friendly Visitor? Check out our Volunteer Opportunities page and search under the category "Visiting/Accompanying Positions." 


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

 

Kate Baird is a fantastic communications professional and self-proclaimed supervolunteer. By day, she works in issues management. By night, she saves the world and edits newsletters for Volunteer Toronto.

 

Tags:  Friendly visiting  health care volunteer positions  senior care volunteer positions  toronto  types of volunteer positions  volunteer  volunteering for youth 

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Ask Kelly - How Can I Get My 40 Hours?

Posted By Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator, September 12, 2016
Updated: September 9, 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



Hi Kelly,

 

I’ve just started grade 9 and heard from my friends that we need to do 40 hours of volunteering to graduate from high school. What counts as volunteering for me to be able to graduate? How do I find volunteer opportunities?

Cynthia

 



Hello Cynthia,

Congratulations on starting high school! Thanks so much for your question. It is true that all Ontario high school students must volunteer at least 40 hours to be able to graduate from high school. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in your community, build up your resume and try new things.

There are many opportunities that can count towards your 40 hours. Here is a helpful infographic to break it down for you!

What counts toward the 40 hour requirement? 

What doesn't count toward the 40 hour requirement?

In terms of how to find opportunities, there are many ways to do so! I encourage you to use our helpful Reflect, Research and Reach Out model to find positions that suite your interests and skills.

You can also come to our Youth Expo on Sunday, October 23 to meet face-to-face with organizations looking for high school volunteers. To learn more and register visit volunteertoronto.ca/youthexpo.

If you are looking for additional guidance please check out the Youth Pages on our website for more information about high school volunteering. You can also check out our Youth Facebook and Youth Twitter for opportunities that may interest you.

Many thanks Cynthia

Kelly 


 Need to get your 40 hours but don't know where to start?

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.

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Meet Our Team: Kelly DeVries

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, September 5, 2016
Updated: September 2, 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; Winnipeg, PEI, England, Sri Lanka, USA 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, and our Director of Engaging Organizations, Melina Condren. 

Next up... our Community Engagement Coordinator!


 

WHO: Kelly DeVries

ROLE: Community Engagement Coordinator

# YEARS AT VT: 1

PLACE OF BIRTH: Oakville, Ontario

FAVOURITE SONG: There is nothing like 90s R&B!

 

What do you do at Volunteer Toronto?

My main focus is on our outreach to members of the public. Overseeing an amazing team of staff and volunteers, we focus on educating people about volunteering and empowering and motivating them to get started! I seek to ensure that people have the information and resources they need to volunteer. This happens through our Referral Services where people can meet one-on-one to have their questions answered; our Outreach presentations and events where we go into the community and talk to folks about volunteering and our blog and newsletter.

 

Kelly DeVries - Volunteer Toronto 

 Kelly prepping organizations for our Senior's Fair

 

 

What do you like most about your job?

 

I love working with volunteers! The volunteers I have the pleasure of working with bring such unique skills, enthusiasm and creativity to their roles. I love seeing people develop and explore themselves while volunteering. I've seen first-hand the impact volunteering has on the organization, clientele and on the volunteer themselves. One of my favourite things is to have an idea of tasks that need to be done in the Community Engagement Department, and then explore with a volunteer how their skills and experience can take that task to the next level. Volunteers are amazing!


  Kelly chatting with volunteers at the Dance Marathon

Kelly chatting with volunteers at the Dance Marathon

 

What was your most enjoyable volunteer experience?

When I first moved to Toronto, I was looking to make connections and friends in the city. I started volunteering for special events with the 519 Church Street Community Centre. These special events included fundraisers, an LGBTQ Volunteer Fair and the Pride Beer Garden. It was an amazing way to meet new people, explore resources the across the city and make connections. Also it was simply fun to be involved in such a vibrant hub and celebrate the diversity of people in Toronto!

 

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

One of my favourite things about the summertime is playing on my flag football team with Flags of Glory. I've made some of my best friends in the city through this league. It is so much fun! This year I'm the captain of the team which is amazing!


Kelly playing football

Kelly catching a football like a pro!

 

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

I absolutely love dill pickles. I think they are the tastiest thing ever. I cannot imagine having to give them up for the rest of my life! I have trouble going a week without eating several.

 

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

Double salted licorice is a Dutch treat from my childhood. It has a very unique taste! I've never met someone who didn't grow up eating who hasn't spit it out at first try :) Delicious!

  

Kelly Desk Drawer 

Kelly's desk drawer


Stay tuned in October for our next feature!

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:  Kelly DeVries  Staff at VT  Volunteer Toronto staff  Who works at Volunteer Toronto 

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