Giving back to humankind. Feeling connected; finding a passion.
Those are all descriptions Tyler Voigt explains why people volunteer, and is the very nature of philanthropy.
“The activity itself (volunteering) is dependent upon the person’s own empathic capacity … we make sure it’s going to work for you,” notes the executive director of Volunteer Comox Valley, an organization whose mission is to be an agent of change, which promotes community engagement through the power of service.
Voigt explains the organization came together in 1997 as there were people in the community looking to volunteer, but didn’t know where to turn.
They now have an office, located at 450 Eighth St., which allows people from various backgrounds with different skills to be matched with either a one-time or ongoing volunteer position within the Valley.
“We do have a heavily-engaged demographic,” Voigt says, but quickly adds 10 per cent of volunteers contribute to 50 per cent of volunteers’ hours. He adds many are seniors – 65 and older – and generally those from the baby boomer generation are seeking more skills-based opportunities.
“With trade-based opportunities, they are generally more one-time events, such as being an electrician at MusicFest. These are very popular in the Comox Valley, especially in the summer with festival after festival.”
While many retirees are seeking more consistent volunteer opportunities, he cites many one-time events are very useful to dispel the myth that youth are apathetic towards volunteering and philanthropy.
“The more experience you have in life, generally the more likely you are to contribute to a volunteer cause, but we look at what you feel passionate about. We make sure it’s going to work for you.”
Voigt says there are around 130 volunteer opportunities available through VCV and whether individuals want to volunteer for a specific group or service, or are looking to expand their skills and feel engaged, volunteer advisors will aid in matching the volunteer with the right opportunity.
Jessica Dawson, media outreach co-ordinator and a volunteer with VCV for six years, says volunteering has allowed her to feel as though she is contributing to her community.
Dawson is disabled and as a result, relies on her husband, who is her full-time caregiver, along with other supports to help her with daily tasks.
“Even though I have a disability, I ended up feeling very useful. I grew up with a strong work ethic, and I’m helping to make the community a better place.”
She says through volunteering, she has gained workplace experience skills, and is building relationships and friendships which she adds are “lasting and rewarding. I feel like they’re my family.”
Dawson encourages anyone to volunteer, even those who are still in school or between jobs, as volunteering allows anyone to gain work experience and skills.
“It’s great because it fills in gaps on your resume. A person can be helping the community, and in return, it’s helping them with their career.”
She agrees with Voigt that it’s best to find a position that matches a passion, but says a volunteer can try a variety of different positions with different organizations to find the best fit.
“(Everyone has) a certain amount of time to volunteer, and any work you put in will be appreciated. There’s so many volunteer positions, you might be missing out if you try just one.”
She notes volunteering in any capacity is exciting, good for the local economy and “the opportunities to make a difference are endless.
“Not everyone has money to donate, but what is more valuable to a person than time? It’s like planting a seed that will grow.”
Volunteer advisors at VCV are trained at assessing an individuals’ needs and skills to ensure the process of becoming a volunteer and what it means to the community.
Appointment times are available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. VCV also accepts applications from non-profit groups that are in need of volunteers.
For more information or to volunteer, visit www.volunteercomoxvalley.ca.