That’s one way to sum up volunteering! And Brant Food For Thought couldn’t agree more. Where would we be without the immense commitment and dedication of more than 450 educators, parents, students and community volunteers who shop, chop, bake, bag, prep and deliver close to 1.2 million healthy snacks and meals annually to more than 10,000 children and youth in our school communities. Now that’s extraordinary!
Did you know that volunteering offers a myriad of benefits? You may be surprised to find out that in helping others, you are actually helping yourself. According to an article from HelpGuide.org, there are four broad benefits of volunteering: it connects you to others, can help advance your career, can bring fun and fulfillment to your life and is good for your mind and body.
One of the best known benefits of doing volunteer work is the impact it has on the community. Brant Food For Thought recognizes the efforts of the many volunteers who are the backbone of this organization. Educators, parents, students and members of the community come together with one common interest, to contribute to a student’s ability to learn by providing healthy snacks and meals on a weekly basis to their respective school communities.
When asked about the importance of volunteer recognition, Nadine Adlam, volunteer co-coordinator at Agnes G. Hodge Public School, said it this way. “We feel it is very important to recognize how valuable it is that our volunteers give of their time, especially when time is such a valued commodity these days. Many of our volunteers come in every Monday and spend 3 to 4 hours straight standing to do all the food preparation for the week. We do what we do here because we like to help the kids and help others. We don’t do it for recognition but it is nice to know when you are appreciated by the staff and children.” Adlam realizes that it’s the little tokens of appreciation, “like thank you notes and hugs, and gifts of fresh baked banana bread that go a long way to boosting volunteer morale and making people feel good and appreciated.”
Volunteering helps ordinary people connect with other ordinary people with similar interests. Adlam goes on to say, “Amidst the quick hugs and smiles, the volunteers are glad to help. Some good friendships and bonding have also developed in the kitchen as a result of our volunteering time together. This makes it rewarding for everyone involved.”
In January of this year, nutrition program volunteers were offered a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals. Breakfast For Learning, one of Brant Food For Thought’s national funders, collaborated with their National Premier Sponsor, President’s Choice Children’s Charity, to nominate key nutrition program volunteers and other school representatives to participate as torch bearers in the 2015 Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games Torch Relay. Four such volunteers were chosen to represent Brant Food For Thought and proudly carried the torch in a segment of the relay: Liz Moruzi, Guidance Counsellor at North Park Collegiate, Shannon Hendel, Learning Resource Teacher at Agnes G. Hodge Public School, Tom Mercante, Culinary Arts Teacher at St. John’s College, and Deanna Searle, Executive Director of the Brantford Boys and Girls Club. What a proud moment for these four individuals to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Liz Moruzi, Guidance Counsellor at North Park Collegiate Vocational School, along with her co-worker Shannon Greene, initiated a breakfast program and healthy snack shack at the school. When asked about her experience as a torchbearer, she shared, “It was a lot of fun representing Brant Food For Thought. Most of the others on my ‘Party Bus’ were selected because their companies sponsored the Pan Am Games. An exciting fellow torchbearer on our bus was Pinball Clemons! He was also our newest Canadian citizen, as he officially became Canadian the week before!” How exciting!
Shannon Hendel, Learning Resource Teacher and Librarian at Agnes G. Hodge Public School for over 10 years, initiated the student nutrition program at the school in 2011. With a great group of volunteers who now run the 5-day a week program, Hendel handles the financial and reporting piece by organizing and completing the online data tracking and annual grant renewal for the program. Her dedication and involvement with student nutrition at the school landed her a coveted spot as a torchbearer representing Brant Food For Thought in the 2015 Relay in the Dundas area for the Toronto PanAm Games. Way to go Shannon!
Volunteering provides opportunities for skill building and career advancement. Similar to informational interviewing or job shadowing, volunteering provides individuals with a chance to research the career alternatives that are available to them. It is a great way to develop new skills and gain valuable “real-world” experience that many employers are looking for in prospective employees today.
Tom Mercante, Culinary Arts Teacher at St. John’s College, was recently honoured to bear the Torch in the 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games. In addition to his responsibilities at the school, Mercante is actively involved in the community by sharing his diverse culinary skills with students and others outside of the classroom setting. From organizing the high-school “Fuel For School” breakfast program 3 days a week to hosting the Annual Veterans Day Luncheon and involving his culinary arts students in preparing and serving breakfast at Brant Food For Thought’s Annual Breakfast For Champions charity breakfast event, Mercante is quite involved in his community. As one teacher colleague said, “Whenever there is a school event that needs food or catering, Tom is there!”
In this high stress environment where we live and work, it’s good to know that volunteering can bring much needed fun and fulfillment into our lives. When referring to the volunteer environment at Agnes G. Hodge Public School, Adlam shared, “We have lots of laughing and joking going on in the kitchen, which also helps to make it fun. I think that it is important to make it fun in the kitchen so it doesn’t seem like ‘work’.”
Volunteering is also good for the mind and body. Deanna Searle, Executive Director of the Brantford Boys and Girls Club, is no stranger to that concept. Their mission at the Club is to provide opportunities for children and youth to reach their full potential in life, by supporting their healthy physical, educational and social development.
From engaging youth in programs and recreational activities to providing nutritious snacks for the children and youth participating, Searle provides opportunities for volunteers to make a positive impact in their community and in turn, benefit physically and emotionally from their investment of time.
In addition to her responsibilities at the Club, Searle finds time for her own volunteer contributions. Recently chosen to represent Brant Food For Thought as a torchbearer in the 2015 Toronto PanAm Games, Searle speaks of her experience. “It was a bit hectic when surrounded by 8 police officers and numerous relay organizers at Toronto City Hall. Although extremely short lived, it was a truly amazing experience and one I can share with our youth, as it definitely proves that ordinary people can do extraordinary things!”
Interested in volunteering in one of our programs? Be sure to check often on our volunteer postings on Brant Jobs. Consider joining a great team of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the children and youth of our community!