Pride in our volunteers

Photo by Joel Muniz

A message from Kerby Centre CEO Larry Mathieson

I looked for a definition of volunteerism online this morning. Volunteerism: the use or involvement of volunteer labour, especially in community services. A little uninspiring, given how volunteering really changes the world.

Most years, about 1000 people volunteer at least once for Kerby centre or our Elder Abuse Shelter. Four hundred of these volunteers give their time multiple times a year, usually on a weekly or monthly basis.

A majority of these volunteers are older adults who also use our services or believe that they will be using them in the future. Almost all of them donate their time inside one of our two buildings.

As Kerby Centre has essentially been closed for a good portion of this year you would think that we would not be deploying volunteers as we would have nowhere to use them.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth — we have more than doubled the size of our volunteer force since last March. We still have at least 400 active seniors volunteering but we have at least other 400 or more new volunteers who represent every age group.

These volunteers new and old aren’t necessarily doing the roles they might have in the past but instead are delivering the many new programs and initiatives we have started recently.

When enough of us have received the COVID-19 vaccine, we will go back to some of the same old Kerby programs you love, but our volunteers will continue to deliver the many new services that have been so critical during the pandemic.

I’ll chat another time about the many corporate partners, community agencies and other groups who have partnered with us to make these new programs possible — but today, I want to list a few of the wonderful initiatives our volunteers have been involved with.

Did you know we have volunteers who have been delivering homemade soup to seniors stuck at home? We have seniors who read to kids in kindergarten and grade one, seniors who act as zoom pen pals for kids, volunteers who pick up groceries from restaurants and grocery stores who donate items that we can deliver to seniors who experience food insecurity.

Volunteers have run all sorts of zoom events on a range of topics including medical concerns for seniors, investment advice and estate planning.

Did you know we have a volunteer who drops of craft supplies to our elder abuse shelter one day and the next day she runs her weekly class via zoom teaching the residence in the shelter how to make crafts?

At Kerby Centre, we have been running a free bread market twice a week in the gymnasium where we donate bread and other food items to address food insecurity and avoid sending fresh, incredible food to be wasted in a landfill.

Our volunteers have begun to take pop-up versions of these free bread markets to other seniors centres in the Calgary area and we are exploring partnerships with other organizations who serve other groups which are vulnerable to these concerns.

It has been a year like no other for most of us but thanks to our hundreds of volunteers, it has been a year of outreach to older adults beyond some of our wildest dreams.

We could not be prouder of the folks that donate their time, skills and smiles for the well-being of others at every opportunity.