Cleaning to Contribute!

Above: Maureen and students cleaning the Welcome Inn kitchen. Maureen facilitated a weekly volunteer group here with the LAF afterschool program. Right: Jeff with students volunteering at YMCA for the day. Jeff also facilitates a group to volunteer weekly at YMCA tutoring recent immigrant youth. Banner Photo: Pausing at the end of the day to reflect on why we serve and what we are learning about social justice issues.

by Maureen Elliott

It seems like just yesterday that we introduced you to Maureen, whose Community Volunteer Action (CVA) internship with us has now ended. Thanks to Maureen for all she contributed this year!

8:30AM on a Saturday morning – not the most likely time that you would find a university student up and at ‘em, prepared for a day of cleaning and hard labour. Nonetheless, our team of eager students showed up for our annual Volunteer-a-thon donning sweats, ripped jeans, and smiles, all ready to take on the tasks ahead of us. We caught the bus and head-ed to our respective placements – YMCA, Bereaved Families of Ontario, and Welcome Inn Community Centre – and got straight to work! Each of these not-for-profit agencies have many maintenance tasks which fall to the wayside because they simply do not have the resources to do everything that is needed. It was our intent to help to remedy this situation.

From cleaning kitchens or exercise equipment, to organizing resource rooms, we definitely got our hands dirty! But, as they say, many hands really do make light work! At the end of the day, we received glowing feedback from the volunteer agencies, thanking us for our contribution. Robin Barker of the YMCA said, “…the student volunteers were amazing. They were truly committed to putting a full day of effort in… please know it was greatly ap-preciated. Having a welcoming and clean environment goes a long way in helping us serve our community.”

Yet, this is just one example of the amazing work that Student Open Circles is involved with, contributions that never cease to inspire me. In our 30+ weekly volunteer groups, students are engaged in serving a diversity of local needs from breakfast programs and soup kitchens to afterschool drop in and homework help programs. Through my contact this year with members of each social agency, I was overwhelmed with their extreme gratitude for the work that Student Open Circles volunteers do in the community. On more than one occasion, I was told that these programs wouldn’t be able to run without the help of CVA volunteers. I saw, first hand, the connections that are made – high school kids that look forward to particular volunteers to help them with their homework and children who wait on a specific mentor to spend a few hours with them, to name a few. It is truly amazing to witness the impact that can be made in such a short time.

With that said, I would like to tell each of you, who partner with Student Open Circles through your support and encouragement, how important and obvious your impact is on this community. Over the past year, I have had the privilege of seeing the big picture, and it is pretty spectacular. So thank you so much for the difference you are making!