Throughout the year thousands of volunteers go about the region offering their time and attention to various organizations, often with little thanks and without seeking recognition.
Volunteer Week is a national celebration held in honour of those who give up their time, effort and resources to contribute to the betterment of their communities. From April 13th-18th, communities and organizations across the country will host awareness events, appreciation luncheons and more in honour of those who dedicate themselves to helping others.
“This is a nationally-recognized period of time to acknowledge and thank and appreciate all of the volunteers we have. It’s also a great time to be talking about volunteerism and getting more people involved in volunteering,” said Karen Oatway, executive director of Volunteer Central.
“Lots of organizations do their own volunteer appreciation during this time. They know their volunteers the best and how best to show them appreciation. For our staff, we’re very excited to be partnering with the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery for an exhibit that will run until August 21st. It’s got highlights on volunteers throughout Central Alberta and it really shows that people volunteer for different reasons, and anyone can do it.”
Volunteer Central is a fairly new organization based in Red Deer that collects data on all volunteer opportunities in Central Alberta. The program was launched about a year ago and has since seen vast growth in its users and the breadth of organizations it has been able to help.
Organizations, non-profits, fundraiser events and the like contact Volunteer Central to have their details posted online and shared. The coordinators at Volunteer Central manage the postings of thousands of organizations and are therefore able to connect people with a wide variety of groups that might suit them.
“Things have been very busy and very fun. We’ve been working all throughout Central Alberta. There are a ton of volunteer opportunities on our web site, and they are really easy to find. You go on the site and you just click on the yellow button and you can see all of the opportunities available,” Oatway said.
“You can search by area in Central Alberta – whether that’s Ponoka, Lacombe or Red Deer. You can search by interest, if you want to work with kids, or animals or seniors. You can also search by organization.”
Currently, Volunteer Central has a draw opportunity happening until the end of April. To be entered into the draw, go to www.volunteercentral.ca and navigate to the ‘volunteer opportunities’ section. Information for the draw becomes available on the page. Oatway said there are a number of great prizes, with first prize being a $50 recreation pass from the City of Red Deer and United Way.
One of the ways Volunteer Central helps the community is by providing training workshops for volunteers and employees of non-profit organizations
“We’ve got workshops for volunteers and staff, mostly for non-profits. We’ve offered leadership and management courses, event planning and skills for volunteerism and non-profit sector employment. Right now, we’re partnering with the Central Alberta Association of Fundraising Professionals to do workshops on May 8th and 9th,” Oatway said.
“That’s definitely a concern for most non-profits, especially in this budget year. That gives them some great tips and ideas on how to make their fundraising more successful. With small non-profits, people kind of get delegated into positions where they don’t have experience, so these workshops are great.”
Volunteer Week is a great time to review local volunteer listings, become involved and gain education on the wide variety of groups and events that need volunteers in Central Alberta. The web site is easy to navigate and search through, and there are positions available for all ages and skill–sets, she added.
For younger people, volunteering is also a great way to add experience to college and university applications, as well as to gain criteria with which to apply for scholarships. It’s also a way to maintain meaningful activity if a person loses their job and a way to network and maybe gain access to employment.
Interested parties can also check out the Sector News newsletter presented by Volunteer Central, which connects them to job postings in non-profit organizations as well as provides information on local event listings seeking volunteers.