Theirs is an essential service

Small towns run on volunteers and nobody knows that better than Woolwich Community Services.

Four of WCS’ long-time volunteers have been recognized with Ontario Volunteer Service Awards this spring as some of the 11,000 Ontarians receiving the award.

Leigh-Anne Quinn, WCS community resource coordinator, says with six full-time staff and six part-time staff they still need the more than 100 volunteers that help run their programs.

“While staff have always coordinated and developed programs our volunteers have always sustained them. So Woolwich Community Services can only grow and continue to provide these needed programs with the support of our volunteers. In 2014/15 our volunteers donated about 7,499 hours of their time. That added up to about the equivalent of four full-time staff,” Quinn said.

Not only do they have those 100 volunteers who volunteer throughout the year, they also have about 200 volunteers who come out to help specifically with their Christmas Goodwill program.

Every year they look at their list of volunteers and see which ones are eligible for the award. Awards are given out by the province to volunteers with five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 plus, 40 plus, 50 plus and 60 plus years of continuous service. Youth under the age of 24 are recognized for two or more years of continuous service.

“Ruby and Elroy Wideman volunteer with our food bank and they have done so for over 10 years. Jill Martin has volunteered in many different facets over the years. She’s actually one of the coordinators of the Christmas Goodwill program. She’s volunteered at our thrift shop. She’s volunteered at our front desk. She’s volunteered in our food bank. Linda McNabb has volunteered in our food bank, as well as with our Christmas Goodwill program,” Quinn said.

They’ll be holding their own volunteer appreciation event at the end of April, where many more of their volunteers will be recognized for their contributions, including the volunteer of the year.

She adds they’re always looking for more volunteers. Right now they would love more drivers to help with their transportation program. That program takes people to medical appointments they wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise. They also need help with their English school, and some people who are interested in providing childcare.

“The knowledge that these volunteers have and grow over the years is invaluable to us,” Quinn said.

McNabb is being recognized for 20 years of continuous service to WCS where she helps with the food bank and Christmas Goodwill program.

“I don’t know what started me volunteering, but I know that I used to take a day’s holidays and come and help. I just thought it was such a great thing to help families in need,” McNabb said.

She said it sure doesn’t seem like she’s been volunteering there for 20 years. In the past she helped out with Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, but with her husband ill she’s keeping her volunteer efforts focused on WCS.

McNabb says she continues to volunteer because helping people makes her feel good.

“It’s a lot of fun. When we get together for the Christmas Goodwill even though it’s hard work, it’s just a lot of fun.”

She and her husband moved to Elmira in 1974 to raise their family. Back then Elmira was much smaller. They both came from small towns and wanted their kids to grow up in the same type of atmosphere.

“The population of Elmira is getting bigger and I think the need is getting greater. And I think it would be a good idea to if they haven’t had it lately to have an information night, so people would understand what volunteering means,” McNabb said.

She say when she first started at the food bank she thought she would have to commit to a certain time of a certain day, but really it was very flexible to her schedule.  She’s hopeful this will encourage more people to volunteer with WCS.

“It’s just all been great and a lot of fun,” McNabb said.

Woolwich and Wellesley recipients include Jill Martin (20 years of volunteering with WCS), Elroy and Ruby Wideman (10 years each of volunteering with WCS), Linda Flemming (10 years of volunteering with the Waterloo Region Committee on Elder Abuse), Mary Haffner (10 years of volunteering with Drayton Entertainment), Rashmeet Kaur (youth award for volunteering with the Kitchener Public Library), and Elinor Rau (25 years of volunteering with the Waterloo Historical Society).

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