Have you ever wanted to volunteer, but were not sure where or how to go about it?
A new non-profit in the Langleys is hoping to solve that problem.
Langley Volunteers is an umbrella organization that connects volunteers to non-profit organizations.
Residents who want to volunteer, but are not sure where to begin, can join the organization to find different opportunities. Likewise, businesses and non-profits that need support for an event, or an ongoing program, can contact the group to connect with vetted volunteers.
“As far as I know, Langley has about 900 to 1,000 non-profit societies,” said Zosia Ettenberg, vice-chair of Langley Volunteers.
“It’s amazing, but the thing is, no one has a record of who they are …. We can accomplish a lot more if we share. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
It’s an idea that Ettenberg has had at the back of her mind for a long time. As an avid volunteer herself, and founder of the non-profit Langley Pos-Abilities Society, she believes a volunteer consulting group is a great need in Langley. She even used the idea of a volunteer bureau as the platform in her campaign for Township council in the 2014 municipal election.
“Langley is an ideal sized community, where people start caring about their neighbours, and that sort of thing. And what I noticed is, people in Langley volunteer,” Ettenberg said.
“(With events) like the Seniors Games, they have the huge committee that’s trying to get volunteers. And then the event’s over, and those volunteers disappear. And then you have to start all over again next time. And I’m thinking, ‘That’s too bad.’ Because it’s a shame that people, who have an interest in volunteering (will) also have to go through the thing, ‘OK where am I going to volunteer next? How do I find that?’ Whereas if everything’s all in one place, it’s much easier.”
The group will be using a program called Volinspire to help with their efforts. The online company, founded in Kelowna, helps businesses, non-profits and volunteers find events and organizations to volunteer for. Then, in return, volunteers can track their hours in a log.
This is important when it comes to applying for grants. Generally, applications will ask non-profits for how many volunteer hours they need. A dollar value is then applied to help determine the value of the grant, which usually works out to $20 per hour per volunteer, Ettenberg explained.
She also noted that the software is great for high school students needing to track their volunteer hours for graduation, or for businesses with volunteer programs to track their employee’s volunteer hours.
“We looked at Volinspire and we thought they offered an excellent service. I’d like to see them as a tool that we use. But not as the only volunteer bureau,” This sentence confuses me Ettenberg said.
“What we felt we needed was the personal touch. Because there’s a lot of seniors who want to volunteer, but they don’t want to go online and fill in all of their information online. They want to speak to a person.”
Langley Volunteers has been over a year in the making, after the idea was brought up in a non-profit committee for the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, of which Ettenberg is a member. From there, a sub-committee and a taskforce were created to explore how such a group could operate.
They determined that creating a new non-profit network? to work in both the Township and the City of Langley would be the best approach. A board of directors was formed, and the task of finding non-profits and volunteers to join their membership is now underway.
Ettenberg is joined on the board of directors by Deb Dolton, Karen Long, Sylvia Anderson, Barb Wallick, Jessie Xi and Ozden Konen. Both Xi and Konen have recently moved to Canada, and hope to promote volunteerism among new immigrants. Konen, who is from Turkey, is also working to connect Syrian refugees with volunteer opportunities in Langley.
The group has already received community grants from both the City and Township, as well as support from Encompass Support Services and Envision Financial.
“It’s just a way of giving back to the community what the community gives to you. It’s the cycle of life, in a way. We’re very fortunate to live in such a great community, so it makes sense to be able to give back to the community,” Wallick said.
“For me, what’s amazing is for all the years that I’ve been volunteering, I can’t believe (with) this organization how everything is piecing together,” Long added.
“It’s all about the contacts that we’ve made along the way, and you know that you’re on the right path. Everything aligns. It’s very rewarding.”
For those looking to get involved, head to www.langleyvolunteers.ca and fill out a volunteer form, or call 604-897-7278. A criminal record check is required for all people who sign up.
Volunteers will then be contacted by Anderson, who is the “match maker,” to help decide who is best suited to what organization.
MEET & GREET
The Langley Volunteers will hold their first event, a ‘Meet & Greet,’ on Saturday, April 22 at the Douglas Community Rec Centre from 1 to 4 p.m.
There will be networking opportunities for volunteers, businesses and non-profits.
RSVP is required. Please email email@example.com or call 604-897-7278.