Like most events right now, National Volunteer Week is a virtual celebration.
Volunteers across Canada are recognized from April 19 to 25, during a time when the COVID-190 pandemic has changed the landscape of volunteering in the country.
Lorelynn Hart, program director for Volunteer BC, said the organization has noticed an increase in the number of people willing to volunteer this spring, with more free time on their hands.
“We know that people are coming out of the woodwork to help, to volunteer, which is great,” she said.
“We have noticed many more self-organizers, people who organize their own volunteer efforts to make masks or items like that,” Hart added. “With no events happening, it’s changed with how volunteers can get involved, but we are working on more virtual volunteering opportunities, how people can get involved that way, rather than in-person or in an office. We’re really noticing a surge in the type of volunteers needed for things like pickup and drop-offs of groceries, things like that, where people can’t do that for themselves.”
Hart said that with no dedicated volunteer centre in Surrey, Volunteer BC directs would-be volunteers to local organizations.
“We tell them about Sources, food banks, DIVERSEcity and PICS, Options and even the Lions clubs, organizations like that,” she said. “We take some calls and inquiries from people wanting to volunteer and we direct them the best we can.”
Online at volunteerbc.bc.ca, a photo contest has been organized for National Volunteer Week as a chance to “applaud this country’s volunteers,” with cash prizes for first, second and third place.
“We’re really encouraging all non-profit groups that have volunteers to send us photos of their volunteers, and we’re highlighting them on social media,” Hart explained. “I don’t care how many (photos) I get, I will post them all to recognize them, which is what it’s all about.”
Volunteer BC, incorporated as a society in 1979, celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.
The goal of Volunteer BC is “to help British Columbians mobilize their talents as volunteers, offer education opportunities, provide useful tools/ways to address critical community needs,” according to the organization’s Twitter bio.
There are plenty of ways to give back to your community. Try virtual volunteering. https://t.co/AEFfz8awXm
— Volunteer BC (@volunteerbc) April 20, 2020
Volunteer Canada’s website (volunteer.ca) says “almost 13 million Canadian volunteers deserve our coast-to-coast-to-coast cheers for their dedication and generosity. Let’s all join together to applaud their immense contribution to our country, our communities and millions of our lives during National Volunteer Week (NVW).”
The website includes opportunities for “Virtual Volunteering,” which is done online, via computers, tablets, or smartphones, usually off-site from the non-profit organization being supported.
Meantime, after temporarily suspending service March 17 on the advice of the BC Cancer Agency, Surrey-based Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (VCDS) has shifted gears in the way the organization helps people.
While transportation service is suspended, care for patients continues.
“Out of deep concern for their welfare, dispatchers at VCDS reached out to every patient to say hello and to find out how they were coping in this time of isolation,” says a news release. “For many who are living alone dispatchers found that patients needed help with many things such as shopping, picking up prescriptions and getting to a bank. Many turned to family, friends and neighbours for rides to treatment. A few took advantage of taxi vouchers issued by the BC Cancer Agency.”
VCDS co-founder and vice-president George Garrett commended dispatchers for contacting every patient: “We may not be able to provide patients with transportation for now but they are never far from our hearts.”
The organization is online at volunteercancerdrivers.ca.