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Impact Stories

Volunteers are vital for keeping our communities strong

Thanks to these dedicated, passionate, and selfless volunteers many British Columbians have received the help and support they needed when they needed it.

North Vancouver Parklet Placemaking Team – all volunteers – support residents to host their own free pop-up like this Truth & Reconciliation Day activity.

December 5 is International Volunteer Day. Another challenging year has come and gone-2021 saw our community rally to address both immediate needs like those created by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, while growing support for those who need a little bit of help on a more regular basis.

Thanks to these dedicated, passionate, and selfless volunteers many British Columbians have received the help and support they needed when they needed it. Today and every day, we celebrate volunteers and their power to make our communities better.

Look below to see how combining volunteerism with United Way British Columbia-supported initiatives makes for a powerful force for good.

Flood relief

When torrential rains and devastating floods hit the Fraser Valley in November, Meg, a nurse, and local activist learned healthcare workers in Hope were without food or supplies. Meg and United Way British Columbia Community Builder, Margaret were approached by community members eager to supply 120 chickpea lentil curry meals and pizza for those needing food. The pair then worked together to fill every fridge in the Fraser Canyon Hospital and Fraser Hope Lodge. Meals were also delivered to the food security program at Skwah First Nation.

“This is local love in action,” Margaret says. “Our healthcare providers deserve our thanks, and we were so happy to make this delivery in Hope and bring some cheer and resources to those working so hard to take care of us all.”

Wildfire support

When the Lytton Wildfire tore through and destroyed the small town on June 30th, many evacuees fled without their belongings, and found refuge in Merritt.

With support from the United for BC Wildfire Recovery Fund, the Nicola Valley Food Bank stepped up for those evacuees, providing essential items including food, clothing, hygiene products and toys for those who have been displaced, have lost their housing and belongings, and who are suffering from physical or mental health trauma.

“We’re open every day, and the first thing we do is check to see the availability of items and what is missing,” says Wasim, a volunteer with the food bank. “When people come here and can’t find what they need, they ask, and we write it down to prepare it for them as soon as we can get it.”

Safe seniors, strong communities

Shortly after Felicity and her husband, John moved to Port Hardy, she began volunteering with the United Way-funded Hardy Bay Senior Citizen’s Society. Volunteering helped her to meet people and to give back to her new community. Among the other benefits–volunteering helps build a web of care for when it is needed.

“It’s fellowship, it’s friendship, and above all, it’s not being alone,” says Felicity.

Several months after calls for social distancing and self-isolation to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to Felicity’s volunteering, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to her friends at the society, she got much–needed support. After every trip to Campbell River for John’s chemotherapy treatment, there were meals and more waiting for the couple.

Over 160 community agencies just like the Hardy Bay Senior Citizen’s Society quickly pivoted to help older adults with essential non-medical tasks such as grocery shopping and medication pick-up in response to the pandemic. Since March 2020, over 1,000,000 services have been delivered to over 30,000 British Columbia seniors. Those services were made possible by volunteers-close to 14,000 people- as part of the Safe Seniors Strong Communities program.

Starting early

Chocolate Easter eggs were 12-year-old Talon’s gateway into volunteering. Instead of keeping the eggs for himself he made gift bags for those struggling during the holidays. Talon is an example of a young person giving back to his community. His gift bags – some filled with treats, while others include soup for a hearty winter meal – are given out free at various locations in North Delta including Nick’s Nook. The Nook is volunteer-run food pantry started with support from United Way British Columbia’s Hi Neighbour program during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide food and other essential items free to those in need in the community.

“You have to treat people how you want to be treated yourself,” Talon says. “[When] I volunteer I can spread joy everywhere I go giving back to people.”

Nick’s Nook is located at 11300 84 Avenue, North Delta at the Northside Community Church.

Making a difference together

Since the Fall of 2020, the North Vancouver Parklet Placemaking Team, a volunteer collective, has had a big impact on their community. The team has worked closely with City of North Vancouver engaging community members and improving Lonsdale public Parklet spaces including working with the North Shore Pride Alliance on the Pride Parklet and the Little Rainbow Library to celebrate the local LGBTQIA+ community. The group also supports residents to host their own free pop-up activities including a group rock painting in support of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Erika is one of three regular team volunteers. “The reason I started volunteering was because I really love North Vancouver, I think it’s a really great place to live and I wanted to give back to community.”

Collective volunteering is one of many Hi Neighbour Lonsdale program activities that not only benefits neighbourhoods by bringing together a variety of different ideas, interests, and skills, it also allows members to participate in strengthening vital connections in their community on top of other commitments.

“Working with United Way gives me an opportunity to…play a part in maintaining and evolving that sense of community for the generations to come,” says Luke, who grew up on the North Shore and is working to maintain and build upon the strong sense of community he felt as a child.

Acts of local love more important than ever

No matter how they help, volunteers are leading social change right here at home and around the world. You can join them. Over 5,000 United Way British Columbia volunteers help in their neighbourhoods and in the broader community.

Do good, feel good. Acts of local love make a difference for you and for others. Sign up today at ivolunteer.ca or visit your regional United Way British Columbia website for more information on volunteering.