Local groups seek volunteers for holiday season

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By Kelly McGahey

The holiday season for many people is a time of unity and compassion, which for some people provides an opportunity to reach out to the community around them.

Taryn Graham, the business communication coordinator for the Kitchener-Waterloo Volunteer Action Centre, acknowledged, “For volunteers, the holidays are a great way to get started and connected to the KW community.”

The Volunteer Action Centre is an organization that functions as a connecting resource for volunteers with opportunities in Kitchener and Waterloo. It works with about 160 organizations in the Kitchener and Waterloo area as well townships that surround the area.

“Volunteering has a positive impact on someone, or a whole group, especially if you are helping out with events, packing gifts or helping out with food hampers,” Graham continued.

Graham added that there are a wide range of volunteer based organizations to become involved with in the community.

An example of a volunteer organization is the House Of Friendship, which supports the Kitchener and Waterloo area through providing food, shelter and programs for healthy lives.

“Part of volunteering is [to] broaden one’s world view,” said John Neufeld, the executive director of House of Friendship.

Neufeld continued to say that volunteering allows one to see a different perspective and have more awareness of the community.  “We always have time to get involved and give back because it is what we need to do to build a strong community,” he added.

One problem that volunteers can help alleviate in their community is poverty. Neufeld further explained that there is poverty in Kitchener and Waterloo, although some might not recognize it due to a think in a false sense of comfort.

The Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group reported in 2012 that there was a 17.5 per cent increase in number of shelter bed nights accessed and a 9.58 per cent increase in number of people using emergency shelter. The organization serves to coordinate groups working on these local issues.

Neufeld said he saw the poverty in Kitchener when delivering House of Friendship’s Christmas hampers in his own neighborhood. Neufeld described the living conditions as “regular family home dwellings with people jammed into basements and homes.”

Graham suggested volunteering is a great way to begin addressing the issues of poverty.  She concluded, “At the end of the day volunteers make so many things possible. They really impact all different elements of an organization.”

Kelly McGahey is the WLUSP events coordinator and the production manager for Radio Laurier. 

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