Chatting with representatives from some of the organizations at the Art Centre Volunteer Fair revealed a need for volunteers in an interesting variety of roles. Each was enthused about the opportunity volunteers give them to take their services to a new level. There are jobs available for any interest or time commitment – the possibilities and positives would certainly make you think about fitting some volunteer service into your schedule.
Resources, Inspiration & Fun
New research from Volunteer Canada shares practical information for volunteer organizations to attract volunteers among four specific demographic groups: youth, families, boomers and employer-supported volunteers. They have come up with some cool tools and resources.
For a little inspiration, visit Getvolunteering.ca.
What kind of volunteer are you – a Type A, a Rookie or a Groupie? Take the quiz and discover your inner volunteer.
You can check out opportunities with Volunteer Elgin at their Volunteer Fair on October 29th 20ll at the Elgin Mall (417 Wellington St, St. Thomas) from noon to 5pm. Even if you are not sure about volunteering, it’s a good way to develop an appreciation for some excellent work being done in your community.
Art Centre Volunteer Fair Presents a Cornucopia of Volunteer Possibilities
Many adults and youth stopped in at the Art Centre Volunteer Fair to learn about volunteer options – below you will find brief information from some of the organizations who were there. (It doesn’t include all of the groups on hand as, unfortunately, time ran out to chat with everyone).
The Art Centre has a full roster of volunteer jobs, explained Suzette Terry, Administrative Assistant at the Centre. They include maintenance and odd jobs, media and promotions, reception, special events assistant and education assistant. The education assistant helps the art instructors – it’s a position which often appeals to high school students. One co-op student took on the organization of a show in the Timken gallery, demonstrating self-motivation and confidence and building more of the same. It’s a lively place that’s likely to bring out your creative spirit, no matter what the job!
Wendy Cowie smiled that she has been the Volunteer Coordinator at the YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin – “since Labour Day”. However, she has had experience with the YW, working in the past as a volunteer at their Connections store in Port Stanley. She highlighted volunteer positions in adult education, one on one with individuals who need to improve literacy and math skills. Training and reference materials are provided as it is important to take into consideration the unique teaching approach for adults. It has been a challenge to get enough volunteers for the program run in St. Thomas & Aylmer. The Connections store in Port Stanley, unique in that it is fair trade and proceeds go to the YWCA, also needs volunteers. These positions require people willing to commit to at least once a week to ensure on-going momentum with the adult learning, or staying in touch with inventory in the retail outlet.
In the early stages of preservation of CASO Railway Station, massive effort by volunteers was needed to ensure the building was secure from deterioration before funding could be found to move ahead with restoration. At present, Linda Martin, Special Events Coordinator for the North America Railway Hall of Fame, notes that volunteers are needed mainly to man some of the special events held in the grand building. This is the perfect job for adults or youth who would like to be on hand to help out with a station happening – a great way to have fun while you are working, and it suits an occasional-only time commitment.
The Elgin County Railway Museum is an organization with an enormous variety of volunteer opportunities, and “all kinds of jobs” noted Railway Museum Manager, Dawn Miskelly. They range from “artifact cataloguing to manning the gift shop, giving guided tours, sitting on committees (like fund-raising), marketing, restoration, building maintenance and grounds maintenance.” Day Out with Thomas is a favourite for youth volunteers at the station. The need for volunteers has increased as the museum has shifted to being open year-round.
The Elgin County Museum has presented, over the past few years, a wonderful (and sometimes weird – recall “Sitting Pretty, The History of the Toilet) variety of exhibits from Clark McDougall’s Barns to Jumbo, Rural Retail, Life & Leisure on Lake Erie, most featuring some artifacts from the extensive permanent collection. All have been interesting, but what Curator Mike Baker would really like to see is programming to bring some of those artifacts to life – it’s those activities where the right volunteers could have a lot of fun. Introduction of demonstrations and ‘hands on’ for kids would more effectively convey “the idea of farm life in the 20th century” says Mike. He may have been inspired by the very enthusiastic reaction to the museum displays at the 2010 International Plowing Match where adults and kids alike were engaged by “high-touch” opportunities. “Elgin County would be” visions Mike. “the perfect place for a Museum of Agriculture.” Other volunteer jobs at the museum for both youth and adults include graphic design; getting a back-log of shows onto the website; researching items from storage with development of a complementary display in the meeting room. He notes that it is a priority to involve the community.
Elgin County Archives is another organization with a surprisingly diversified line-up of volunteer possibilities. Archivist Assistant, Gina Coady explained that people are needed to “design virtual exhibits and accomplish a variety of other ‘techy’ tasks, digitize photos, assist with conservation and cleaning of documents, and help with reference services to researchers.” The creation of our local archives was driven largely by community effort starting back in the 1980s and 90s. The County’s first archivist, Brian Masschaele arrived in 2001 and the facility was opened in November 2002 with a mission to preserve but also to be an active community resource. It has accomplished much - check out the website for a treasure-trove of photos and the archive’s own you-tube channel. The Archives has recently mounted an extensive exhibit, Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited St. Thomas Assembly Plant: Photographs from the St. Thomas Times-Journal Collection, 1966-1983. It includes images documenting the selection and preparation of the plant site, plant construction, milestone events, labour relations, and, most significantly, the production and distribution of a series of iconic vehicles including Falcon, Maverick and Crown Victoria. It is open to the public Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm – a perfect chance to check out the archives if you haven’t done so before.
As this year’s Executive Director of the St. Thomas United Way, Paul Shaffer would like people’s perception of the United Way as fundraiser-only to shift to one of an organization which can impact the community through participation and involvement (and fun with events like the upcoming Stair Climb). The agency is working to build its role as a provider of a pool of resources in order to assist other agencies with, for example, a campaign, drive or need for volunteers. The United Way is looking for volunteers to help build those overall resources. Paul also wants donators to know where their money is going and to be assured that the United Way is engaged in the community, that money raised here funds programs locally and that care is taken to insure that those dollars help to make this a better place to be.
Melissa McLeod, Volunteer Coordinator at Second Stage Housing explained that they provide twelve apartments for women leaving abusive relationships. During their time there, the women receive support while complementary programs are also provided for their children. Volunteers are needed to cover the kid’s recreation worker position. In addition, once a month Bingos through Bingo Country are important fund-raisers where volunteers are needed.
Inn Out of the Cold started last year, a desperately needed shelter for the winter months. In recent years, people finding themselves homeless in St. Thomas literally had no where to go but the streets. The program is housed in Central United Church and provides for basic needs of shelter, food and warm clothing in a setting of compassion and dignity. The program requires coverage by one staff and one volunteer at all times or the centre must close. Jennifer May-Groves, Volunteer Coordinator, indicated that volunteers assist the 4 staff members who set up beds, prepare meals, play games, chat and just hang out. Inn Out of the Cold can be reached at 519.633.2638, ext 220 and can be found on facebook.
Lisa Minielly, Vice-Chair of Volunteer Elgin noted that they are a networking agency for their membership of local non-profit organizations. They also provide resources and training experiences. Several of the eighteen current member organizations will be on hand at their first annual volunteer fair on October 29th (see details above). Links to each of them can be found on the Volunteer Elgin website.