Volunteer Peterborough connects volunteers with groups in need – Peterborough

A new coalition called Volunteer Peterborough aims to make the volunteering process easier for potential volunteers and local organizations.

Founder Lois Tuffin said the organization was born out of a need in the community.

“We realized that there are groups that desperately need volunteers. Meanwhile, there are all these people who are disconnected from where they were volunteering or who have moved to town, and they want to find something that really engages them,” Tuffin said.

“So there’s this gap and we thought, OK, we need something that doesn’t require checking 20 websites to find out if the charity works for me and we built this ‘dating site ‘ to make the connections.”

And she said so far the matchmaking is going well.

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“We had a lot of success early on, with people finding roles they maybe didn’t know existed or hadn’t heard of. We came up with a list of 170 organizations, and it didn’t even scratch the surface,” Tuffin said.

“The Peterborough Humane Society, for example, you can work with animals, but they also need help with their gardens. You can volunteer on a board of directors, there are senior support programs, coaching or training with sports teams – the menu is endless.

One organization that relies heavily on volunteers is the Salvation Army in Peterborough, Ontario. Darlene Ewing is the toy coordinator for the annual Christmas Help Program, an initiative that provides grocery gift cards and toys to families in need during the holiday season.

“They meet one of our buyers and pick up toys, stocking stuffers, knitted items, sporting goods, crafts; we try to make sure parents leave feeling good knowing their children will have a good Christmas,” she said.

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But to achieve this, they need the support of the community, sometimes calling on around fifty volunteers per day.

Alongside the Christmas relief programme, the Salvation Army’s annual kettle drive is also underway. JoAnne Leach, a Christmas support worker for the organization, said this year the needs were greater than ever.

“At the end of October, the number of new users of our food bank increased by 74 percent compared to the same period last year,” she said, noting that she suspects a similar increase in their seasonal programs.

“We are just starting to get involved with Volunteer Peterborough and hope it can help us with our programs throughout the year as well as over the festive period.”

Tuffin said when you register with Volunteer Peterborough, you indicate your availability, special sk**ls and interests.

“Everyone has a sk**l that’s needed somewhere,” she said. “Maybe you just want to do something that takes a few hours, or maybe you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into. There are so many options.”

Like for example a breakfast program.

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“The program is run entirely by volunteers,” said Samantha Dennis, student nutrition coordinator at Edmison Heights Public School in Peterborough. “We welcome around 450 students per day. We do a little bit of everything, shopping, packing cereal, washing apples and just making sure the kids have a nutritious snack throughout the day.

She said programs like this are essential for the community.

“Without this program, there would be a lot of hungry kids, and those kids just wouldn’t learn. It’s not good for anyone and no one should go hungry. When kids see you, they get excited, and it’s so rewarding to know you’re making a difference,” she said.

Tuffin, herself a longtime volunteer, agrees, saying the process can be more rewarding than one might think.

“It really connects you to a group of people who have the same heart as you,” she said. “It’s just another way to connect deeply with your community and make a difference in all of their lives.”

And although the name is Volunteer Peterborough, she said they also have opportunities in the surrounding area.

For more information or to sign up, either as a volunteer or as an organization, you can visit the Volunteer Peterborough website. For more information about Salvation Army programs or to sign up for the Christmas Assistance Program, you can call (705) 742-4391.

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