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National Volunteer Week, 2016

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the importance I place on volunteering one’s time freely and gladly for the benefit of the wider community.

Without volunteers, there would be little help for those down on their luck and living on the streets, pets in need of homes, or seniors who want some companionship or require someone to deliver their food.

Kids’ sports programs? Hockey? Soccer? Baseball? Forget it. 99% volunteer-run.

Parent Councils wouldn’t exist and without them, no movie nights, new play equipment, used book drives or school bake sales.

Community Associations – those groups of volunteers that organise community garage sales, offer programs and events, do those baked bean suppers or who arrange for Santa to give out some presents at the local community hall – b-bye to all those.

Spring garbage clean-ups? Nope, those riverbanks and highway ditches will just have to live with the tossed out cans, bottles and tires.

United Way canvassers? Ciao.

Adios to all those who collect furniture and food for refugees, money for the Kids Help Phone or put together a soccer tournament at work to benefit something-or-other.

Goodbye Rotarians, Lions and Kinsmen. All you do will be missed.

The point I am trying to make is this:

Think, even for a moment, of all the ways that the work that volunteers do touch you and your family and friends. Then imagine if they all bailed.

Thank a volunteer today. Better yet, become one! It doesn’t need to be a huge effort. Do it and you will feel good about yourself and will become one of these irreplaceable threads in the fabric of your community.

Happy Volunteer Week!!!!


Volunteerism – get involved, damn it!

I have written before about volunteerism and what is means to me. From volunteering at one’s school to participating in our civic processes, volunteering is a way to “give back” (I’m not particularly fond of that term) to the community and to gain a certain measure of self-satisfaction in the process.

I have given up a lot of my free time over my adult life to a number of organisations, and I have learned much about myself and others by doing so. The type of folks who volunteer alongside me are, for the most part, the type of folks with whom I like to spend time, chat and share experiences. They are dedicated, hard-working and truly believe that what they are doing is valuable and necessary. And they are correct.

A lot of Canadians volunteer a LOT of hours in a year. Check it out:


That’s 154 hours, on average, for that 43.6% of the population that engage in volunteer activities. Put another way, that’s equal to just about 4 full 40 hour work weeks… and not paid a dime for any of them! Wow!

But you say that this is misleading because this includes all Canadians, regardless of whether they are holding down jobs outside the home or not. After all, many stay-at-home Moms and Dads perform daytime duties at their kids’ schools… like running milk programs, pizza days, helping in the class, etc. But no – check out this other graphic:

So it turns out that those with jobs actually volunteer more, not less than the population as a whole. Pretty incredible, eh?

Why the rant today about all this?

Well, last night was my last AGM of the childcare services not-for-profit that I have been involved with for about 8 years. It has been a rewarding experience which has allowed me to have a small measure of influence over the childcare experiences of my two youngest kids. Some of my fellow Board members have been able soldiers (being Ottawa, we’ve even had REAL soldiers!) who have guided the organisation through some pretty rough waters at time. The long-time (former as of last year) President (let’s call him “Kevin”) was and is one of the hardest working volunteers that I have ever worked with and is a true credit to his community. I hope he knows that. And I’m certain that the current President will be equally up to the task in the coming months and year.

But I’ll miss this particular unpaid gig. My kids have “graduated” from that organisation now and I’m finding myself pretty stretched for time since taking on a bigger role at my Community Association. Still, I do not regret a moment of the many hours that I devoted to the organisation.

If you haven’t already joined the millions of Canadians who give up part of their free time to give meaningfully to their community, then you might want to think about it. You too won’t regret a moment of it.


I hate seeing things like this happen.

I really do.

Our local soccer club has cancelled the 2012 season due to a lack of volunteers.

2012 Season Cancelled

Dear parents,

The Canterbury Soccer Club is a community-based, developmental soccer club that has been run solely by volunteers for the past 35 years. Some years, we have had up to 700 athletes from 4-15 years old learn to play soccer and have fun at the same time with our organization.

For the past several years, the numbers of volunteers has dwindled to the point where parents whose kids no longer play with the CSC have been asked to come back to help complete 10 executive jobs that needed to be done.

Lately, we have also had to vigorously convince parents to volunteer as we are annually short on coaches. But, the three people on executive last year managed to organize the 48 teams for over 550 kids to make the season happen. One of those volunteers was at the field 4 nights a week for the entire season.

We understand that soccer may not be a very familiar game to most, and that coaching is can be a daunting task. However, we have in place several options open for coaches’ training and practice plans that will help in running teams.

However, as a result of not having enough volunteers we have decided to cancel 2012 season in its entirety.

We hope that you will consider volunteering for a position on the executive or as a coach next year.  The Annual General meeting where the executive jobs will be filled for 2013 will be held in the boardroom of the Biran Kilrea Arena (next the the Canterbury Community Centre) on Thursday April 19th at 7:00 pm.

Please step forward as a volunteer so that CSC will be reborn in 2013. Our kids are relying on you.

If you live in south-east Ottawa, please consider volunteering for next season.

Yeah, I know, it is tough to find the time. And if you are at all like me, you are already involved in one thing or another in your community or with your family. There is a limit.

But if you don’t already have something on the go, or can spare a few hours in the evening during the week next May and June, why not consider getting involved with this organisation? It is well-run, the season isn’t long, you get outdoors, and best of all, NO experience required!



Volunteers and the school community

My family and I returned about an hour ago from a function at my daughter’s school. One of the parents (and a friend of ours) organized a Multicultural Potluck Dinner night – and what a success it was!

Like many schools in Ottawa, ours is home to families from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.  It was thought that it would be nice to present everyone with an opportunity to turn a dreary January evening into something a bit more special by having a potluck dinner reflective of their own particular background. The results was an enormous variety (and quantity) of scrumptious dishes from around the globe! Irish stew, spanakopita, Afghan rice, cabbage rolls, samosas, an Israeli apple and noodle dish, Somali chicken… you name it!

(For the record, I wanted to bring KD with chopped up hot dogs sprinkled with a generous helping of curry power – but the Resident Love Goddess nuked the idea.)


What always blows my minds about these cooperative volunteer efforts is the degree to which not only the main organizers dedicate themselves to the task at hand but how others put their shoulders to the wheel as well – without being asked.

Case in point this evening. I, along with a few others had indicated that we would stick around after the dinner to break down the tables, stash away the chairs, etc., etc. But we, in fact, didn’t need to work as nearly as hard as we expected because just about everyone – upon realising that the evening was coming to an end – pitched in. what would have taken more than an hour for 4 or 5 of us was accomplished in a fraction of the time. Carrying tables and chair back to their homes,  dodging kids who were chasing each other, packing away food and drink, picking up garbage… and all worked like a moving symphony. It was great to see.

But that’s the thing about a community, isn’t it? We don’t really need potluck dinners and School BBQ’s and Christmas concerts and book sales to come together as a school community. We do it anyways. But events like the one tonight give us the opportunity to openly celebrate our community – and its importance to we families who comprise it.

And what a great thing for me to write about instead of the shameful shenanigans of our so-called political “leaders”. Harper, Ignatieff and the rest could learn a thing or two from little functions like this… not a gram of cynicism, hyperbole or vitriol to be found; just a community coming together and sharing some good food.