May 25th, 2024

Flagraising kicks off Volunteer Week


By Lethbridge Herald on April 15, 2024.

Representatives from multiple local organizations and volunteers take part of the National Volunteer Week flag raising ceremony Monday morning at City Hall. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Representatives from multiple organizations gathered outside of City Hall Monday to take part in Volunteer Lethbridge’s Volunteer Week kickoff flag-raising ceremony. 

Amanda Jensen, executive director of Volunteer Lethbridge talked about the important role volunteers play in the community. 

“This is a big deal, we’re literally raising a flag, but we’re figuratively raising a flag ,too on the power of what volunteerism can achieve in our community,” said Jensen. 

She said they want to celebrate volunteers all year long but having a national volunteer week really prompt them to make sure they do it right, it reminds them to keep doing it right all year, to thank those people that selflessly give their time to make their community livable. 

“We really want to highlight how a community is served by volunteers. If you imagine in any given day, week, month, year how many times you and your family are personally impacted by a volunteer,” said Jensen. 

She said it could be through the arts or in sports through somebody’s coaching. She said there are very few instances in our lives where we are not impacted by the power of volunteerism and she believes that is something that is not widely recognized. 

“I can tell you in Lethbridge just over half of Lethbridge residents volunteer and this just blows my mind, of those people that do volunteer they’re doing it at about 90 hours per year, and it contributes annually $135 million to the economy in Lethbridge,” said Jensen. 

She said people often think about volunteerism as a relatively soft and beautiful thing, which it absolutely is, but if people were to think about the impact to the community on a different level it could blow their minds. 

Jensen talked about the events taking place during the week to celebrate Volunteer Week and said today many organizations will gather to have a panel and roundtable discussions to discuss providing non-profit employees a living wage, how that impacts non-profit organizations’ ability to absorb volunteers, be ready for them and provide the capacity that they need in order to support a volunteer program. 

“Sometimes we think that volunteerism is free because the word kind of brings that word to mind, because we are volunteering, we’re working for free, but it’s not free to run a volunteer program,” said Jensen. 

“So we’re also very cautious about supporting our non-profit organizations to make sure that they’re as healthy as they can be to support volunteerism.”

She added another major event they are hosting to show appreciation for volunteers will be taking place on Saturday at the Movie Mill. 

“We’re opening up the Movie Mill to volunteers to come for a free movie, free popcorn and pop just to say take a load off and thank you so much. We’ve done that before and it’s always really well attended and appreciated by the volunteers,” said Jensen. 

After speaking to reporters, Jensen proceeded to open up the ceremony where she welcomed those in attendance, thank the different organizations for providing volunteering opportunities to members of the community, and provided some volunteer data. 

Councillor John Middleton-Hope spoke on behalf of the City of Lethbridge and said the City has been very fortunate to have so many volunteers, as not every city has the volunteer base that we have. 

“We have been very fortunate to host events like the Brier, the PGA Grand Canada Golf event within the last few years. None of them would’ve happened without the tremendous group of volunteers, their efforts which are unpaid, but their contributions are absolutely priceless,” said Middleton-Hope. 

During the ceremony, Lethbridge Family Services Immigrant services highlighted two of their volunteers who are paying back what other volunteers have done for them through the Community Connections program. The program pairs up a newcomer with a volunteer from the community to help them become familiar not only with the city, but with the culture and the language, as well as creating friendships that helps them transition to their new life in Canada. 

Jensen told those in attendance that the fastest growing demographic in volunteerism is newcomers and that usually brings her to tears because “it is a gift of services after potentially a tumultuous time.”   

She added that the second fastest growing demographic was students, which is also happening during a transitional time in their lives. 

“They have a lot going on, lots of pressure and yet here they are showing up,” said Jensen. 

She also highlighted the fact that in Lethbridge at any given time, there are over 250 volunteering opportunities that anyone can take advantage of. 

Jensen said those interested in volunteering, who are unsure of where to begin, what to do, or where to go can visit Volunteer Lethbridge or their website for information as they have a “somewhat centralized” system that allows them to help community members find a volunteering opportunity that matches their interests.

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