Around the region, the Volunteer Action Centre is recognizing those that have gone above and beyond in contributing to their communities. A total of fourteen individuals and organizations were selected for the annual Volunteer Impact Awards, which will be presented on April 19 during National Volunteer Week.
Amongst those to be honoured is Menno S. Martin Contractor Ltd., a St. Jacobs-based business co-owned by Art Janzen and Trent Bauman. Menno S. Martin, which has a history going all the way back in the community to 1942, was selected for the Group Engagement Award. It’s been a big year for the unassuming business, which was earlier also nominated for the Employee Engagement Award by the KW Chamber of Commerce.
Both the Volunteer Action Centre and the KW Chamber recognized the contracting business for its novel approach to the Random Acts of Kindness movement. Typically, the movement is celebrated over a period of a week, but not so for Menno S. Martin. The organization came up with the idea of giving each of its employees $75 to use in a random act of kindness.
“We enabled all our staff here to give back,” explained co-owner Janzen in an earlier interview about the initiative. “Using the number 75 to commemorate our years in business, we gave each of our employees, including myself and Trent, $75 to use for random acts of kindness. So it could be broken up into increments if you wanted.”
The two explained that they wanted to celebrate the legacy of the business’ founder, Menno S. Martin, as well as its subsequent owner Laverne Brubacher, and the impact they had on the community.
“It seemed to be a no-brainer when it came time to celebrate our 75th that [our] ‘putting people first philosophy’ just needed to shine through,” said Janzen. “And it needed to be about giving back to the community that got us to where we are.”
Beyond that, Menno S. Martin gave each of their employees $500 to donate to a charity of their choice, and donated a day to the Kitchener House of Friendship, helping the not for profit with their expertise in contracting.
A second award recipient being recognized by the Volunteer Action Centre this year is Janine Armstrong. While not actually a volunteer herself, the Kitchener-native has been indispensable to the Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region, helping the organization make homes like the one built in Wellesley village a reality.
Armstrong works at Habitat as a volunteer manager, so was fittingly nominated for the Volunteer Manager Award. It’s an award that recognizes her for her ability to engage not only individual volunteers on a one-to-one basis and inspire them, but also help Habitat partner and collaborate with other organizations such as schools and businesses.
“There’s a couple favourite days for me,” says Armstrong. “One is when I get to be around when people get their keys, because they typically take their kids out of school and it’s like a big deal. They’re getting their keys to the first home they’ve ever owned.”
Armstrong takes an interesting approach to managing volunteers which has undoubtedly helped her in her roles. She explains that while volunteers often come looking to help an organization or a cause, they too should be able to benefit from the experience.
“I believe that it needs to be win-win,” she explains. “So the organization that people volunteer for always get something out of it, we get a task done. But I believe that the volunteers also should be able to walk away with something. Whether that’s feeling good, or whether that’s a new skill set, or whether that’s a bolstered resume, or something like that.”
A major achievement, notes Volunteer in Action, was Armstrong’s role in connecting Habitat with the Grand Valley women’s prison. The program helped women coming to the end of the term at the prison reintegrate into society through Habitat.
“We host women who are nearing the end of their incarceration as they’re getting ready to rejoin society, that they have job placements with us,” explained Armstrong.
The awards will be handed out next Thursday during National Volunteer Week, which runs from April 15 to 28.
“We think that the contributions by volunteers to this community are invaluable no matter who or what role they play,” said Jane Hennig, executive director with the Volunteer Action Centre.
“But in these cases where the nominations have taken place, it is because they’ve done something that has just made them step out during the course of this year. They’ve done something incredibly inspirational or have really, really made a unique difference to the organization that they’re serving.”