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Making Your Court-Ordered Community Services Hours Time Well Spent

Posted By Andre MacKay, Guest Blogger, April 25, 2016
Updated: April 14, 2016

Andre volunteering at the Dance Marathon

Andre (left) and Megan voluntering at Volunteer Toronto's Dance Marathon in support of SickKids

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

After receiving a traffic citation, I was required by court order, to complete 80 hours of community service, which at the time, seemed a very daunting task given my hectic, deadline-driven work schedule, long commute to and from home, as well as periods of extended travel. I began by looking to my personal and professional networks for connections that worked in the non-for-profit space that could perhaps refer me to volunteer positions that would allow me to leverage my work experience and skills. I noticed there were many volunteer positions that required candidates commit to a recurring schedule over the course of a few months, but due to my hectic schedule, I needed to find a volunteer position where I could help on either a single event or small number of events. Enter Volunteer Toronto…

There are several great online resources throughout the GTA that aggregate volunteer opportunities and offer a convenient listing of those positions. In general these websites allow you to search, review, and register for a variety of different tasks, events, and programs. After searching casually on a few, I kept coming back to the Volunteer Toronto website because I found it to be thorough and intuitive with a great variety of potential opportunities. The site allows you to search by category and surface specific types of work assignments: such as events that involve group activities, those that support people with disabilities, fundraising positions, consulting, and clerical tasks or some combination of the many options offered. What’s more, users can search by keyword if the particular category they’re seeking isn’t listed and then further sort through assignments by location. Further still, the site offers the ability to search based on duration of availability so one can find a one-day assignment, a short term (less than 3 months), long term (greater than 3 months) or indicate that the duration “doesn’t matter.” The search tools are robust and really help take any guesswork out of the process in addition to aggregating and providing consistent updates of the available positions.

My first volunteer assignment was with Central Eglinton Community Centre.  They offer programs and activities for seniors, children, and the general public. Over the course of a few months I helped with general labour and organizing events as well as supporting the leaders, coordinators, and presenters during programs such as: health care information sessions, sales of baked goods and books, and other programs for members, employees, and volunteers. I also helped to supervise the computer lab during designated hours so that registered members could have computer access and I helped those who needed assistance with internet research, email, and word processing. In addition to supporting the wide variety of events and programs that the centre offered I also volunteered at one-off events including: The United Way CN Tower Climb and both Volunteer Toronto’s Grassroots Growth launch event as well as their Dance Marathon in support of SickKids.

The best advice I can give to those looking to contribute or in need of volunteer hours as part of a requirement is to take advantage of the resources offered on the Volunteer Toronto website. Beyond the volunteer opportunity search page, they also have information on how to get started as a volunteer, frequently asked questions about volunteering, stories from past volunteers about their experience, and even a bi-weekly newsletters volunteer opportunities, free information sessions, and special events.

In order to help ensure that the experience is enjoyable and mutually beneficial one should come with an open mind, flexible attitude, and friendly demeanour as the specific needs may change as the event progresses. Approach the volunteer assignment with the same level of professional, engagement, and willingness to contribute as one would have with respect to a paid position.

After volunteering at a number of different events, the one key takeaway is that there are many organizations throughout the GTA offering important services and making meaningful contributions to the lives of Torontonians that, in order to provide those services to the community, need the help and dedication of volunteers. After gaining an appreciation for the value they offer I will absolutely continue to lend a hand and encourage others to join and make whatever contribution of their time, skills, and experience that they can. 


Andre lives and works in Toronto. 

Tags:  416  Court-ordered community service  give back  mandatory community services  The6ix  Toronto  volunteer  volunteering in Toronto 

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Ask Kelly - How Do I Find The Right Volunteer Position?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, April 22, 2016
Updated: December 19, 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,

 

I am interested in volunteering, but am unsure what the experience is like. I’ve never volunteered before and I want to volunteer in a positive and welcoming environment. Do you have any suggestions about how to find a good fit?

 

Sincerely,

Arash

 

 



Hello Arash, 

Thank you so much for your email and your question! It makes complete sense that you want to be in a positive and welcoming environment where you feel your contribution is meaningful!

As you said you haven’t volunteered before I have several suggestions for you: 

 

 

 

Learn

My first suggestion for you is to learn more about volunteering! Read our Frequently Asked Questions. Explore the “What’s It Like To…” blog series to hear from volunteers in various roles. Check out VolunteersofTO to learn more about volunteers across out city. Talk to persons you know, about where they volunteer and the types of roles they perform with an organization. Read through the position descriptions on our website to gain a better understanding of the options. 

 

  

Act

After learning more about volunteering, I encourage you to act as a volunteer for several one-day special events happening in different organizations. This will allow you to meet some of the staff and fellow volunteers of the organization and give you a general feel for it. Were people friendly? Were you given the resources you needed to do the job well? Did you have fun? This will help you determine a good organizational fit. The best way to search for one-day special events is to visit our Opportunities Database and search by “Type of Position – One Day or Less

 

 

 

Reflect

After volunteering at several special events, I encourage you to follow our 3Rs for finding a good volunteer position—Reflect, Research and Reach Out. It is important to spend some time thinking more about what you are interested in doing, what kind of time you can give, and what you are hoping to learn, share or gain from the experience, to ensure that volunteering is meaningful for yourself and the organization. 

 

 

Hope this is helpful Arash. If you need any additional support please book an appointment with a Referral Counsellor who can help you navigate the website, answer questions you have and provide suggestions of places for you to volunteer.

 

Thanks,

 

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.

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...A Cat Rescue

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, April 18, 2016
Updated: April 13, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Cats have taken the Internet by storm over the last few years. Whether they’re grumpy, cuddly or lazy, these animals continue to win people over both on and offline.  Unfortunately, many cats in the city are born in the wild, which means they don’t have access to regular food or care. Annex Cat Rescue works to help all these furry felines in need.

 

Sara Slater
Volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue

Founded in 1997, the Annex Cat Rescue started in its namesake—the Annex—but soon expanded to help cats across the Greater Toronto Area. This not for profit organization is run by volunteers committed to reducing the feral population and helping cats find homes. Sara Slater has been a volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue for the past 10 years.

 

 

 

 

How would you describe your volunteer role?

Annex Cat Rescue is a 100% volunteer-run organization. I started volunteering by fostering cats after one of mine died. After fostering, I was interested in getting more involved.

I have volunteered in a variety of roles at Annex Cat Rescue, including many administrative positions. Administrative roles are great because you can help cats indirectly, just by working on the computer or supporting other volunteers.

The feeding and caring for the feral cats brings me the most joy of all though, which is some of what I do in my current role as the Feral Colony Coordinator & Community Manager.  I love interacting with the cats, who wait for us every day for food, and monitoring them to see if they need any medical or extra care. For this interview I'll concentrate on the position of feeding the feral cats.

What do you like most about volunteering for this non-profit?

I love volunteering for the Annex Cat Rescue because they really support you through every situation. Everyone is so compassionate and caring.

What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteer work that you do?

People usually think we're a small organization that looks after a few homeless cats. It’s actually estimated there are over 100,000 homeless cats in the city, so that requires a lot people.  There are many homeless cat colonies that Annex Cat Rescue and other rescuers work with, so everyone comes together to help out.

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

As a member of the feral feeding team, I’ve learned how to work independently and help out as part of a team. I've also developed valuable communications and organization skills keeping track of cats, volunteers and keeping everyone up to date.

Is training provided for your role? What did it consist of and how long did it last?

Yes, training is definitely provided for feral feeding. Usually a new volunteer will speak with the volunteer coordinator, and then shadow an experienced feeder for one or two sessions. They will show the new volunteer where and how much to feed the cats, what to look out for, and answer any questions.

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

It’s surprising how much valuable health information I’ve learned about cats through volunteering over the years. The information has definitely helped me better care for my own cats.

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

For feral feeding you need to have a big, empathetic heart. You also need to communicate effectively with the other feeders to discuss any situations that may arise, such as when a cat needs medical care.

 

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

If you're interested in joining the Feral Feeding team, it’s best to see what it’s like first-hand. Email Annex Cat Rescue and say you’d like to shadow an experienced feral feeder!

 

 

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:  cat care  Cat recuse  feral cats  volunteer with cats  volunteering in Toronto 

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Volunteers are the Roots of Strong Communities

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, April 11, 2016

National Volunteer Week 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you were asked what makes a community great, what would you say? Diversity? Green spaces? Low crime? Clean streets? There are so many things that contribute to making a neighbourhood or city a great one, but the one consistent theme in all of those factors is volunteers.

At Volunteer Toronto, every day we see and hear about the impact volunteers have in Toronto. Volunteers teaching newcomers English, mentors helping jobseekers land their dream jobs, youth raising money for local hospitals, families planting trees together to make the city a little more green. This week, during National Volunteer Week, we want to say thank you to each and every volunteer who has done something to make Toronto a little better this past year. Your efforts don’t ever go unnoticed and Toronto wouldn’t be the same without you.

To mark National Volunteer Week and celebrate the contributions of volunteers, we’re awarding 25 special volunteers with a Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award as recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the city. These volunteers’ have given their time to bring positive change and in the process have inspired others to give back – people like Anthony Morgan who has been a strong advocate for the African Canadian community in Toronto and has raised awareness of issues like discriminatory police carding practices, Charles Grimbleby who for 22 years volunteered as a driver for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre helping to deliver goods around the city for people in need, and Katelyn Luciani who has bravely spoken out about living with a chronic pain condition and inspires others to raise awareness of endometriosis. You can read more about these volunteers and what they’ve done for their communities here.

Volunteers are and will always be the roots of our growing community. They nurture our city and make it the strong and resilient place it is today.

From all the staff at Volunteer Toronto, happy National Volunteer Week!

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:  Canada  Legacy Awards 2016  National Volunteer Week 2016  volunteer  volunteer recognition  volunteering in Toronto  volunteerism  Volunteers of Toronto 

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What's It Like To Volunteer As... A Peer Mentor?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 29, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
 Mentor and mentees through the Peer Project
Photo courtesy of The Peer Project

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: Newcomer and at-risk kids, ages 6-15

 Youth and Mentor at Blue Jays Game
 Peer mentor and youth

Building a positive, nurturing mentoring relationship with a child in need can alter the course of their life. Did you know you have the potential to help a child to do better in school? Prevent bullying? Reduce the crime rate? It’s true!

The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth matches youth mentors (aged 16 to 29) with newcomer and at-risk kids (aged 6-15), so they can build a friendship that encourages a healthy lifestyle. While a noble and principled cause, some may find the responsibility for altering the course of a young life an intimidating task. Like trying to make it from the kitchen sink to the freezer with a recently filled ice-cube tray in hand… without spilling a single drop. (bead of sweat rolls down forehead)

Fear not! Volunteer Toronto spoke with Michael Kwong, a volunteer with the Peer Project, to find out more about peer mentoring. Thankfully, perfection is not a necessity. He states that the ability to be there for your mentee and active listening are traits of a good mentor. 

If you possess these attributes and are thinking about peer mentoring, keep reading for more information.  

 

How would you describe the role of a Peer Mentor?

MK: A Peer Mentor is an individual who is, first and foremost, committed to building a positive relationship with their mentee. This can include partaking in different activities with the mentee to learn more about each other and staying in touch with the mentee's parents.

 

What common misconceptions do people have about mentoring?

MK: The notion that the mentor has the answers to everything. Mentors are human. However, a good mentor is there for the mentee when they need them, even if they don’t have the all the answers.

 

What is the time commitment involved?

MK: With the Peer Project it's three hours a week.


What type of training is provided for your role?

MK: A day of training was provided to prospective volunteers to equip them with the knowledge to become successful mentors.

* In addition to their initial training, which includes the topic of mental health so mentors can understand and help their mentees, peer mentors receive ongoing training and also have access to 24-hour support.

 

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

MK: The most important characteristic and skill you can have when it comes to being a successful mentor is the passion for making a difference in the community and good leadership skills. Being a good leader involves leading by example, taking responsibility for one’s actions and a commitment to learning and improvement.

 

What do you like most about volunteering for the Peer Project?

MK: The flexibility. Not being confined to a set day and time enables me to schedule meetings with my mentee that work perfectly for the both of us.

 

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

MK: One of the challenges associated with mentoring is the process of building a relationship with your mentee and developing trust. However, with some time and patience, the mentor-mentee relationship that develops is priceless.

  

If mentoring with The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth sounds like something you’d be interested in, go to their Become A Mentor page to get more information. There are over 400 kids who are waiting to be matched. They need YOUR help.

 

Mentoring volunteer opportunities available:

 

Youth Mentor - The Peer Project

Volunteer Mentor - Junior Achievement of Central Toronto

Career Mentors for Youth - Yonge Street Mission

Male Mentors - StepStones for Youth

 

To discover other volunteer opportunities available to you, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our referral counsellors.


 

Check out this digital story by Olivia Plummer
to learn the life lessons she learned from her mentor.

 

 

 

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:  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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What A Few Hours of Youth Volunteering Can Look Like

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, March 21, 2016


Youth volunteer taking part in the Plastic Echo Action Fair during ChangeTheWorld 2015 

 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

At Volunteer Toronto, we’re often asked...”As a high school student, how can I volunteer? What can I do?”

While volunteering can be intimidating for many high school students, it doesn’t have to be. There are a large number of non-profits who have youth volunteer opportunities and we want to make it easy for you to find them!

Each spring, we encourage high school students to volunteer for 3 hours or more as part of ChangeTheWorld, a six week challenge (April 10-May 23) to get Ontario high school students to volunteer locally and reward them for doing so. It’s an easy way to get a head start on your volunteer hours, or if you are already volunteering get recognized for your awesome work!

Not sure where to start? Here are some options!

 

1. Volunteer and fundraise for SickKids at the Dance Marathon

 

Youth participants at a Dance MarathonEvery year, more than 100,000 children go to SickKids for life-saving care. You can help by taking part in our Dance Marathon on Saturday April 9th to raise money so SickKids can help even more children in the future.

You’ll just need to fundraise $30 or more, attend the Dance Marathon and dance! We’ll acknowledge your fundraising efforts with three volunteer hours and you’ll also be able to volunteer during the event by making thank you cards for the hardworking SickKids staff. Learn more and start fundraising today!

  


2. Plant fruit trees with TreeMobile

 

Youth Tree PlantingJoin TreeMobile volunteers as they plant climate-appropriate fruit trees and plants in Toronto. You can help by sorting plants before the planting day, help deliver and plant the trees or help coordinating the pickup sites. Find out more!

      

 

 

 

 


3. Sell Daffodil Pins with friends for the Canadian Cancer Society

Youth selling daffodilsEvery April, the Canadian Cancer Society asks volunteers across the country to help them with selling daffodils (a symbol of strength and courage) to raise money to help cancer patients and their families by funding life-saving cancer research. You can sign up for a shift in your area by yourself or with family and friends. Learn how to get involved!

 

 

 

 

And if you do take part, don’t forget to request your certificate for doing so. You can do so here!

 

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!

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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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Ask Kelly - What Is The Best Way For Me To Find A Volunteer Position?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, March 7, 2016
Updated: March 4, 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

Hello Kelly,

am retiring soon and interested in getting involved in a volunteer position. I last volunteered about twenty years ago, and it seems that the field has changed since I was last involved. Why is this? What is the best way for me to find a volunteer position?

 

Sincerely,

Mary

 


 

Hello, Mary

 

Thank you so much for your interest in volunteering! I am glad to hear that volunteering is part of your retirement plan!

Yes, you are right that the voluntary sector has changed significantly in the past twenty years. The primary reason for this is a greater concern for risk management and safety for the clients being served. This has translated into a more professionalized screening process for volunteers. For example, the application and screening process may now include:

 

  Submitting an application, possibly including a cover letter and resume 

  

Interview(s) by phone or in-person

 

 

Reference checks, Background checks or Vulnerable Sector Police Checks, particularly if you will be working with vulnerable populations

 

 

The best way for you to find a volunteer position is to follow the 3 R’s – Reflect, Research and Reach Out! 


  Before looking for a volunteer position, spend time thinking about what you would most be interested in. Here are some questions to reflect on:

a. What are you looking for from a volunteer position?

b. What is your availability?

c. Are you interested in a particular cause or organization?

d. What kind of skills would you like to use or gain?

e. How long would you like to commit to a position? A few months? A year?

   
Once you have a clear idea of what you are interested in start researching possible options. The best way to do this is visit our Volunteer Opportunities Page and search by Category. Be prepared to spend some time looking through the 100’s of postings on the website.
   
   

When you find a position title that appeals to you, apply to the position by following the instructions under the  “How to Apply/Contact” section of the posting. I would encourage you to apply to several different organizations at the same time. You never know which ones might work out or how many other people are applying.

 

You could also come to our Seniors Volunteer Fair at the North York Seniors Centre  on Tuesday, August 15 from 12PM-3PM to talk face-to-face with 25+ non-profits looking for senior volunteers.

If you need any additional help don’t hesitate to contact one of our Referral Counsellors who can spend some time answering your questions, and helping you navigate the website to find suitable positions. You can book an appointment with them here or give them a call at 416-961-6888 ext 229.

 

 

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:  Frequently Asked Questions  how to start volunteering  Questions about volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  volunteers 

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...Meals on Wheels?

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, February 29, 2016
Updated: February 26, 2016
 Michael and client talking by car

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: people who need extra support, elderly persons, vulnerable adults, caregivers, people who need help getting through a difficult time 

 photo of Michael Stipetic
 Michael Stipetic, volunteer with MOW
Being able to live in your own home with the ability to do everything for yourself isn’t a reality for everyone. Thankfully, forty years ago, a few volunteers had a vision that all community residents should have access to support services, which would allow them to maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life; and so began Meals on Wheels and More.

 

For over 40 years, this organization has been providing essential services to seniors and vulnerable adults in the North York area to assist them to live independently in their homes. Michael Stipetic is a driver and runner with the organization and has been since 2009. He volunteers once a week for two hours. Volunteer Toronto spoke with him about his experience.

     

 

What are some common assumptions people have about the volunteer work that you do?

MS: A common misconception is that everyone receiving Meals on Wheels (MOW) is elderly.

MOW not only provides services to elderly persons but also helps caregivers in need of extra support, people who aren’t feeling well enough to cook for themselves and those who need help to get through a difficult time in their lives. Low-cost and nutritious meals are delivered every day of the week, including boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables and convenient frozen options.

They can refer a transportation service to clients who need help getting to medical appointments, social events or who just want to get out to do some shopping! MOW has a social worker who provides information, coordination services and case management.  There is also a support group available for caregivers to join.

 

What type of training is provided?

MS: I was provided with on-the-job training. I had the opportunity to shadow another volunteer on the daily delivery route. The training lasted for two hours, and I was also provided with a detailed manual outlining the Meals on Wheels program.

 

What’s been challenging about your volunteer work?

MS: The driving routes can sometimes be a challenge depending on the number of clients and the weather. Being a driver with a good sense of direction and someone who is organized, adaptable and accepting of new challenges will contribute to your success in this type of volunteer work.


What have you learned from your volunteer work?

MS: Everybody requires aid in some capacity. Spending a small amount of time and putting forth a bit of effort can make a huge difference in someone's life. It can be as simple as picking up someone's newspaper or saying a kind greeting.

  

What is Michael’s advice to anyone looking to do this type of volunteer work? Just do it! He says that you will be surprised, as the one who gets the most help is YOU! To find out more about the different types of volunteer opportunities available at Meals on Wheels and More, including testimonials from other volunteers at this organization, click here!


Meals on Wheels volunteer opportunities available:

Meals on Wheels and More 

East York Meals on Wheels 

Canadian Red Cross Society


 

Watch this digital story to find out more about volunteering at Meals on Wheels and More

 

To discover other volunteer opportunities available to you, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our referral counsellors.

 

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:  How to give back  Meals on Wheels  Serving others  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer Toronto  Volunteering  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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I Love My Pink Shirt!

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, February 8, 2016
Updated: February 5, 2016
 
 Founders of Pink Shirt Day - Photo courtesy of Pink Shirt Day

 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes  

 

February 24 is Pink Shirt Day, a national day to raise awareness about bullying. Pink Shirt Day was started in Nova Scotia in 2007 when a male student wore a pink t-shirt on the first day of school and was bullied about being gay. Two senior students overhearing this, mobilized their school community to respond and the next day hundreds of students came to school wearing pink shirts. This awesome story showcases students creating community responses to harm and empowering others to do the same!

 

At its root, bullying is about discrimination and believing it’s okay to make fun of someone because they don’t fit into society’s mythical norms. There are many things you can do to empower students and fight the causes of bullying.

 

Here are just 5 ways you can get involved. To find the relevant opportunities available through Volunteer Toronto, search by the Category identified:   

 

Raise Awareness about Discrimination (Advocacy Positions)

Become involved in organizations that raise awareness about the diversity of people’s experiences and seek to create change. Whether it is promoting LGBTQ inclusion, educating about classism or advocating for those who live with disabilities, raising awareness plays an important role in combatting discrimination.

 

Be a Positive Role Model (Counselling/Mentorship Positions)

Mentorship plays an important role in empowering youth and allowing them to feel affirmed and heard. Having a positive role model, outside of school and home, can help youth explore opportunities, work towards goals and develop in exciting new ways!

 

Participate in Extracurricular Activities (Artistic Work/Crafting Positions or Recreation/Sports Positions)

Being involved in programming outside of school is imperative for youth with unique gifts and for those who don’t do well in classroom settings. Youth can truly shine learning a new instrument, playing sports or knitting scarves.  Recreational activities outside of school are important for youth’s personal growth and well-being.

 

Tutor Students (Teaching/Tutoring/Assistance Positions)

For some youth, school is difficult because they have trouble with literacy or understanding math and science concepts.  Volunteer tutors play a large role in assisting youth with school work and helping them to better engage with the material in the classroom.

 

Provide Counselling Support (Counselling/Mentorship)

Sometimes youth need someone to talk to. Providing support in-person or over the phone is important, whether in an on-going position or for youth in crisis.

 

On February 24, let’s celebrate those Nova Scotian youth who took a stand for inclusion and help empower other youth to do the same!

 
 Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator Kelly 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:  Anti-Bulling  Bulling  Education  Mental Health  Pink Shirt Day  Respect  Role Models  Toronto  Volunteer  Volunteering  Youth Mentorship 

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...A Women's Shelter?

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, February 2, 2016
Updated: February 1, 2016
 Photo courtesy of The Redwood
 Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

 

Population Served: Women, Children

According to the City of Toronto, the emergency shelter system has grown rapidly and the face of homelessness has changed since the 1980s. As a result, the shelter system has become more specialized and flexible to meet new needs within the homeless population.

Volunteering in the shelter system allows you the opportunity to work with different populations, depending on the vision and mission of the specific organization. The Redwood is a women and children’s shelter in Toronto that aims to create a world where women and children live free from abuse and all other forms of violence and oppression, by offering programs and services that assist women and children to live and flourish without abuse, homelessness and poverty.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at a women’s shelter? Volunteer Toronto spoke with Sarah Robinson, a Children’s Programming Volunteer at the Redwood to give you some insight into what it’s like.

 

 

Note: Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity


VT: What are some common assumptions people have about the volunteer work that you do?

SR: That it's restrictive, depressing or really hard. The staff are so considerate of my schedule; I never worry about having to change time or cancel. The work doesn't feel like work― I get to goof around with some of the coolest kids I've ever met, and I don't have the responsibility to get them to sleep at bedtime! It is so far from sad. Even on hard or challenging days, everyone is so supportive and uplifting. I always leave with a happy heart and feeling really glad that I went.



VT: What is the time commitment involved?

SR: The Redwood is really flexible and understanding with commitment changes, but I am usually in for 1 to 1 1/2 hours a week.




VT: What type of training is provided?  

SR: The Redwood provided training on child behaviour and the effects of violence on children and always has optional training sessions available, like Crisis Prevention Intervention, which I’ve found to be very helpful.




VT: What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer work?

SR: I’ve been surprised at how quickly you bond with the staff, women and children. This has been the loveliest surprise. The Redwood has become a safe space for me on tough days. In the same way, developing a close bond makes it challenging when the women and children leave, but we are also happy for them.



VT: What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteer work?

SR: Just try it! You'll be surprised by how easily it fits into and enriches your life.



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

SR: Patience, compassion and an open-mind (plus a dose of good humour) will help immensely when volunteering.    

  


Watch this digital story created by Redwood volunteer Yiran Shao about the myths surrounding shelters

 

Think this volunteer opportunity is restricted to women? Think again! When men volunteer at the Redwood they act as positive role models for the children at the shelter. If you have any more questions about volunteering at the Redwood, including how to start volunteering, visit their webpage.

To look for other volunteer opportunities, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our referral counsellors.


 

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:  Helping a women's shelter  The Redwood  Toronto  Volunteer in a women's shelter  What's It Like To Volunteer  Women's Shelter 

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How To Use Your Passion For Fashion For Good!

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, January 26, 2016
Updated: January 26, 2016

 

Photo courtesy of New Circles

 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The Toronto fashion scene is steadily coming into its own. Spend time sauntering down West Queen West or sailing through the Fashion District, and you’ll be hard-pressed to see anything but hordes of stylish folk showing off their ensembles.

If the release date for the September issue of Vogue is practically a holiday for you, or you strongly consider lining up at the crack of dawn for every H&M designer collaboration, maybe it’s time to consider lending some stylish support to a fashion non-profit. Here are some Toronto-based organizations to consider:


New Circles

Started in 2005, this organization provides services to those primarily in the Flemingdon Park, Thorncliffe Park, Victoria Village, and Crescent Town areas. New Circles operates a free gently used clothing store for low-income residents in the aforementioned areas. They also offer similar services specifically for teens, seniors and students attending prom. Gain valuable experience working with New Circles in customer service, fashion merchandising and donation processing.

 

Brands for Canada

This award-wining charity provides new donated clothing to Canadians living below the poverty line. The founders of Brands for Canada are the team behind Second Harvest, which provides donated surplus food to those in need. Partnering with agencies across Canada to deliver its mandate, there are many ways to lend a helping hand.

 

 

Toronto Fashion Incubator

If you want to get a head start in the fashion game, the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) is where many have gone to get their start. The TFI is a non-profit focused on creating a supportive community for fashion-industry creatives. Whether established or emerging, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in mentorship programs, networking events and resource exchanges.

 

 

Dress for Success

One of the largest-known fashion non-profits, this organization has been helping women since 1997. Dress for Success helps women strive for economic independence by providing them with a wardrobe to help them enter into the workforce. The organization currently operates in almost 150 cities in 20 countries, including Toronto. There are a number of ways to get involved, ranging from special events to inventory maintenance and mentorship.

 

 

 

Inside the Dream

Graduation expenses can accumulate quickly. For high school students who are unable to afford the associated costs, finishing high school can bring unnecessary stress. Inside The Dream aims to alleviate this burden by providing access to free formal wear for students each year on Boutique Days. 

The organization fulfills its mission through donations and support from sponsors. Get involved by volunteering for its yearly Boutique Day event and other special events. 

 

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:  clothing donations  clothing drives  Ontario  prom clothing for low-income  Toronto  used clothing  volunteer for a clothing drive  Volunteer in fashion 

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Ask Kelly - How Do I Apply To Volunteer If I Don't Have Work Experience?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, January 18, 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 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



 

Hello Kelly,

My name is Jian and I am in grade 10. I want to volunteer and get my 40 hours, but I am unsure where to start especially because I’ve never worked or volunteered anywhere before. What is the best way for me to find a volunteer position? I’ve noticed some places ask for resumes, but since I don’t have any experience, what can I send in?

- Jian


 


Hello Jian,

Thank you so much for your letter and your question! I am really glad to hear you want to volunteer and get your 40 hours! Volunteering can be fun, a great way to meet new people and it could give you some experience to put on your resume. 

The best way for you to start looking for positions is to go to our website at www.volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities and search by Category “1. Suitable for Youth (14-17)”. That will bring up any positions that are looking for youth volunteers. Please know that new positions are being posted every day!

 

 

 

When you find a position title that appeals to you, click on it and you’ll find more information about the position. At the bottom you’ll find a section that says “How to Apply/Contact” follow those instructions to contact the organization directly.

You are right that sometimes in the “How to Apply/Contact” section, an organization will ask for a resume. Since you don’t have any experience, I would encourage you to draft a document that highlights your major achievements, your top skills and the things you are interested in. Or if you’d like to try writing a resume, this article gives some fantastic tips for high school students with no experience. Remember, just because you don’t have formal experience, you still have a lot to offer! Make sure to make it look professional and check for spelling and grammar.

In your application, I encourage you to also include a paragraph or cover letter that explains your interest in the position and the skills you have to offer. Why do you want to volunteer for that organization in particular? What are you great at?

If you need any additional help, Jian, feel free to contact one of our referral counsellors who will be more than happy to help.

I wish you the best of luck in your search! I’m excited about where volunteering make take you.

- Kelly 

 
 Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator Kelly 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:  40 volunteer hours  applying to volunteer  how do I get a volunteer position  how to volunteer  how to write a volunteer resume  Volunteer questions 

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5 People Who Changed Toronto For The Better In 2015

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January 11, 2016
Group photo of award winners
Winners of the 2015 Legacy Awards

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

At Volunteer Toronto, every day we hear tidbits about the incredible work being done by volunteers to make Toronto a city we’re proud to live in. Whether they are advocating for the rights of those less privileged, making it easier for people in low-income neighbourhoods to access food, or providing a home for the many abandoned cats in the city, Toronto wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of its volunteers.

And every now and again, we come across people who have gone above and beyond in their contribution and wowed us with their commitment to the community. Our annual Legacy Awards began in 2011 and shine a light on 25 special volunteers who have given an exceptional contribution to their community. Last year’s winners amazed us. Here are just five of their stories...


Photo of Khadija Aziz with Award Khadija Aziz, the youngest 2015 award winner, is an 18-year old youth leader and arts advocate in her community of Thorncliffe Park. Her belief that all youth should be encouraged to explore arts and take on leadership roles has resulted in her creating the first ever youth-led art show in East York called Thorncliffe Artscape. At school, her passion and advocacy for the arts influenced an increase in student participation and engagement  and recently, Khadija facilitated the creation of two live murals in downtown Toronto where twenty-four students put their artistic skills to use by painting two 5ft by 5ft canvasses that would be displayed at a youth shelter in Etobicoke. Go to www.khadijaaziz.ca to view her work. 
   
Photo of Yves Boucher with award  Yves Boucher was working as a fire fighter, when in 2008 he was diagnosed with a stage 3-4 brain tumour and told he only had 5 more years to live. Despite the side effects of the surgery and radiation/chemotherapy, he was still driven to help others and began volunteering his time at Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto, encouraging others to heal. Yves and his dog Betty volunteer at Bridgepoint Hospital visiting patients and providing inspiration for their rehabilitative therapy. When asked about the surgery scar on his head, he replies “Don’t worry, it’s just cancer!” He has helped raise over $25,000 for Princess Margaret Hospital where he continues to receive treatment.
   
Photo of Reesee with award Reesee survived an abusive relationship and several years later founded Reclaim Your Voice, an event series that creates a platform for survivors and those going through abuse to experience the power of sharing their stories. For many survivors of abuse, it stands as a place of solace and understanding for anyone looking to take an important step in the healing process by speaking out. The events, funded out of her own pocket, are open to men, women, survivors and supporters alike and restore survivors' faith in the opposite sex by emphasizing the compassion that exists within us all.  
   

Photo of Simon Chamberlain with Award

 

10 years ago, in an effort to revive the Mount Dennis community association, Simon Chamberlain became a strong voice actively leading community clean-ups and projects to bring people together. Over the past three winters, Simon has been the driving force behind the creation and supervision of one of the best resident-driven projects in Mount Dennis - an Outdoor Community Skating rink in Pearen Park. He spends 30-50 hours a week volunteering at the outdoor rink organizing one of Toronto's few "Learn to Skate Programs." and has been instrumental in helping hundreds of new skaters enjoy an outdoor sport they would not normally be exposed to.  

   
 Photo of Tamara Doerksen with Award

 

In 1971, Tamara Doerksen lost her brother to a congenital heart defect. In 2010, she launched Lonny’s Smile Foundation, a children's initiative to honour the memory of her brother, and help children with medical challenges to experience the typical elements of childhood such as play, friendship, laughter and adventure. Under Tamara’s leadership as CEO and Founder, Lonny’s Smile has raised over $100,000 to send more than 100 kids to Camp Oki, Canada’s first Summer Camp for children with congenital heart disease. 

   
 

Do you know someone deserving of recognition? We are accepting nominations for the 2016 Legacy Awards until 5pm on Thursday February 4th. If you know someone who deserves an award, nominate them today!

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:  Abuse Stories  Arts Advocates  Cancer  City of Toronto Volunteers  Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto  Legacy Awards  Lonny's Smile  Reclaim Your Voice  Thanking Volunteers  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer Appreciation Awards  volunteer celebration  volunteer recognition  Volunteers 

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The Easiest Resolution To Keep In The New Year

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, December 30, 2015
 

 Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

 

2016 is almost here! Perhaps, you're planning parties and family dinners or packing your suitcase for a relaxing vacation to end the year. Regardless of what you’re up to now, many people see the approaching New Year as an opportunity for change and self-improvement. Maybe you belong to the 50% of the population who make New Year’s resolutions and (with 2016 fast approaching) you’ve decided to give back to your community and volunteer!!

According to Psychology Today, researchers have found that after two weeks, most people return to their old ways. Although this reality is bleak and discouraging, you aren’t fated to be a part of this group! Below are tips to help you overcome some of the common barriers that people face when doing volunteer work: lack of time and lack of money.     

 

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Many Canadians cite a lack of time as a huge deterrent to volunteering. To work around this, try looking for opportunities that are close to home, work or school or use your lunch hour to complete volunteer work. This way, you won’t have to find “extra time” to perform volunteer duties, and you won’t have to travel far to the charitable organization of your choice.

The Volunteer Toronto website has a helpful search feature, which allows you to tailor your search of available volunteer opportunities. To find roles close to you, search using the location field.


GET TO KNOW YOUR COWORKERS 

How about organizing an employee volunteer group at your workplace? Not only would this help you add organization, coordination and leadership skills to your resume, but involving others in your volunteer work will be a great way to get to know each other while keeping you accountable to your goal and making you more likely to keep your New Year’s Resolution.

To find roles you can do in groups with your coworkers, use the category field and select “4. Suitable for Groups”.

 

VOLUNTEER IN YOUR PJ'S!

With virtual volunteering, you can completely eliminate travel time. This option allows you to contribute to an organization from the comfort of your own home (possibly in your pyjamas and bunny slippers!). Don’t have a computer or a laptop? You can reserve a computer at your local public library… for free! Your travel costs will be reduced if your local library is much closer to you than the volunteer organization. Not tech savvy? Not to worry, organizations not only need people to contribute technical tasks (e.g. online research or website design) but allow people to perform non-technical tasks like virtual visiting and tutoring.

Try doing a keyword search of “virtual” to find roles where you can volunteer from home.

 

SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY

Between working full time, commuting long hours to the office and doing household chores, most of us want to spend the precious free time we do have with our families. Even if we are willing to sacrifice some of that free time for a good cause, it’s a hassle to find someone to watch the kids; it can also be an added cost. To overcome both the time and money issues associated with volunteering, why not involve the whole family? Not only will this activity provide bonding time, but it will teach children the concept of altruism, encourage teamwork and allow older children to add the skills gained from the experience to their blossoming resumes.  

To find roles suitable for families, use the category field and select “2. Suitable for Families (Parents and Kids)”.

 

Need more help? Volunteer Toronto has referral counsellors who can help you find the opportunity that works for you, helping you to keep that New Year’s Resolution! 

 

 

 

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:  Give Back  How to volunteer in Toronto  Keeping Your New Years Resolution  Make a Difference  New Years 2016  New Years Resolutions  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering in the New Year  Volunteerism 

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