Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Just in time for International Volunteer Day on Dec. 5, Volunteers in Perth is giving credit where it's due.
The association's 12-month "Who Knew?" campaign – which throughout 2013 profiled one local volunteer each month in an effort to raise awareness about the work they do in the community as well as the need for volunteers at its member agencies – received "fantastic" feedback, according to campaign lead Jay Bodrog, who noted one particular profile received 700 hits within 24 hours of being posted on the group's Facebook page.
Now, each of the profiles is part of a month-long exhibition on display at four locations throughout Stratford where volunteerism is alive and well: The Local Community Food Centre, Stratford Public Library, the Kiwanis Community Centre, and the farmers' market at the Agriplex.
"It's a great form of recognition," Bodrog said Wednesday morning at the exhibition's launch at the food centre. "Our volunteers give so freely and they're so committed."
Bodrog said it's also important people recognize they have the ability to volunteer in some capacity, whether they are a student, have a full-time job, or are retired.
While the "Who Knew?" campaign gave much deserved credit to volunteers in Perth County, most of whom are "a selfless bunch" who don't expect the recognition, Bodrog said it was the testimonials they gave about what they have taken from the experience that proved the most powerful.
"The big thing with the campaign was getting the message across that being a volunteer can be meaningful for anyone," Bodrog added.
One of those volunteers is Denise Kane, who for the last seven years has helped at the library picking up and delivering books and other materials to seniors and people who are unable to leave their home. Lending a helping hand was an easy decision for Kane despite already having a regular day job and a family to care for at home.
Kane works as a secretary at Bedford school, and will typically coordinate her volunteer hours for around 4 p.m. so she is finished and home in time for supper. Most volunteer jobs offer similar flexibility, she added, noting people interested in volunteering just need to find the placement that fits into their schedule.
"I've got a full-time family life, but I've still been able to find time for something I think is so valuable in the community," she added.
Kane considers herself as a very social person, and said the chance to engage so many new people in the community has been one of the biggest benefits to volunteering.
Depending on where you volunteer, that communication can be just as rewarding for the client, she added, who in some cases may have limited regular human interaction.
Volunteers in Perth (VIP) is made up of a network of volunteer supported organizations like the Lung Association, Community Living, Habitat for Humanity, and VON Perth-Huron, to name only a few, that collectively and collaboratively promote, support, and advocate for volunteerism.
According to VIP co-chair, Kate Schillings, the association's current 23 member agencies are supported annually by 5,000 volunteers contributing 520,000 hours. Multiplied by the current minimum wage of $10.25 per hour, volunteers account for over $5 million in Stratford and Perth County alone.
With what seems like fewer paying positions up for grabs, Schillings said volunteers are being counted on to fill all sorts of different positions and take on more responsibility. In Canada, for instance, she noted over 50 per cent of non-profits have no paid staff, while many others have limited paid workers or only part-time employees. Then when you consider all the people who are members of a service club or volunteer their time fundraising, "you can see how important they to our community," she added.
VIP plans to continue its "Who Knew?" campaign with new profiles from volunteers assisting its member agencies. In addition to the group's Facebook page, the volunteers have been featured regularly in local media including on Rogers cable.