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People and programs 04/18/2023

Walk into any Community Food Centre (CFC) across the country and you will find people hard at work prepping nourishing community meals in the kitchen, growing delicious vegetables in the community garden, and welcoming community members in with warm smiles.

It's often a team effort with staff and volunteers working side by side, each playing a key role in delivering quality programs and creating a vibrant, inclusive space.

Something we hear a lot is that people who come to a CFC for a program want to get more involved. They care about these places, feel proud to be part of them, and want to help shape them. It's why 40% of participants also volunteer.

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we asked staff from CFCs across Canada what their volunteers mean to them. And the answer? They mean everything. 

Thank you to volunteers from coast to coast to coast for being an essential ingredient in the Community Food Centre experience.

“The spirit of helping others” in Eel Ground, New Brunswick

From the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre in New Brunswick, Mary Paul, CFC Manager, reflects on what volunteers mean in their small community:

“We are a community of about 1,000 people, and we have a tight knit group of volunteers to help our 3 full-time staff. They prepare vegetables for our community meal and help serve food for our drop-in meals on Monday and Wednesday evenings. In the summer, we have students who volunteer in our community garden.

Our volunteers tell me they find it very rewarding to help out in their own community. I love their spirit of helping others.”

Volunteers in Guelph, Ontario “provide a deep sense of community”

At Hope House, Nicole Barrette, Volunteer and Placement Coordinator, shares a powerful moment that stood out to her:

“We rely on our volunteers to make our whole world go round! Not only do they ensure the smooth delivery of our services, but they also provide a deep sense of community to our visitors. 

I remember a time when a new family that only spoke Arabic came to Hope House*. They were struggling to tell us what they were looking for and were getting ready to leave.

Thankfully, we had an Arabic-speaking volunteer who was onsite and swooped in to save the day with a big warm welcome.

They helped us interpret what the family needed. Now, that family's teenage daughter is one of our volunteers!”

Transforming and growing together in Calgary, Alberta

As the program coordinator at The Alex Community Food Centre, Bernadette Lumugdang admires how volunteers flourish:

“One of the things I really enjoy about my role is that I get to see the transformative journey and growth that our volunteers often have at the CFC. 

Some may start off a bit shy, preferring to keep to themselves when they are on breaks and a couple of weeks or months later, those same volunteers are orienting new volunteers and sharing their stories with others. 

Some volunteers have shared with me that they feel more confident about their ability to find employment and connect with new people as a result of volunteering for the community meals.

Last but not least, it is always a privilege to see first-hand the budding friendships between volunteers who met at the CFC, and to see them show off what they made for dinner during their last get-together!”

In Dartmouth, Nova Scotia volunteers, “truly embody our mission and values”

Catherine Morley, Volunteer Coordinator at The North Grove Community Food Centre opens up about how volunteers help build a thriving community:

“What inspires me most about our volunteers is that they all truly embody our mission and values. 

Many folks who fill out an application will list “wanting to give back” as a reason for joining our volunteer program. While that notion is altruistic and beautiful, it’s really not what we ask of volunteers here. 

Volunteering at The North Grove isn’t transactional, it’s about relationships and connection. 

The support and care volunteers have, not only for the community, but for each other, is evident. 

I think when you have a group of people who really adopt your vision, they ultimately become stewards of the organization – and I couldn’t be more grateful to have so many dedicated stewards who represent The North Grove and our vision to build a thriving community.” 

* Hope House is a Community Food Centre partner-in-development
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