By Jesse-Ann Hennessey
Special to KingsCountyNews.ca
Only in Grade Four, a young girl started a long career of helping people in need by volunteering in the nursery at a church and, in the same year, raising money for the Children’s Hospital by having a fun fair fundraiser in her backyard.
Now in her fifties, Brenda Wallace-Allen still holds on to the thank-you letter from the Children’s Hospital and the feeling volunteering gave her.
“I have volunteered all my life. It was one of the values I saw modelled in my home,” she said.
And Wallace-Allen has not slowed down any. She is on a number of committees and boards and has been a member for the volunteer steering committee of the Kings RDA since it was formed. She also teaches a course at NSCC on volunteer management and has many goals and passions.
“My passion for a number of years has been volunteer initiatives that address aspects of rural life, resources to support volunteering and the development of a hospice,” she added.
Volunteering is important for many reasons to create a vibrant community, she says. It represents citizens who are involved in their community, and ultimately, that is how democracy works, she said.
“Volunteering also emboldens the spirit; it helps you recognize there are people you don’t even know creating a network of care and this is life affirming,” Wallace-Allen added.
It also gives people a way to help change things around them they think need to be changed, which sustains hope, she said.
“I believe ultimately volunteering is prompted by our love of others and this is a way of manifesting that love.”
Volunteering resulted in the development of many of the services we take for granted, she said, like universities, hospitals, and church’s and also a range of programs addressing recreation and safety, just to name a few.
If volunteers were to stop providing their services for a week, we would be shocked at the impact on our daily lives, she said.
“We have come to rely on volunteers to enrich our lives, but also to provide services that are vital to the life of any community,” Wallace-Allen added.
Volunteering helps others, but it also does a lot for the volunteer as well, she said, such as making new friends, developing new skills, developing a profile, contributing to a cause that has touched people they love and more, she said.
“The motivation for volunteering directly affects what the volunteer gets out of the experience.”
More young people volunteer in Canada than any other age category, but it can be difficult to attract them because of the time commitments and the cost, she said.
“In the end, it is a challenge to attract volunteers of any age so one has to consider how to adapt the volunteer opportunity to eliminate as many challenges as possible and then how to advertise the opportunity.”
To help local groups and organizations do just that, a new volunteer resource initiative was launched in Wolfville in January. The Volunteer Steering Committee, of which Wallace-Allen is a member, aims to offer a way to provide volunteer screening and tracking volunteer hours through a volunteer passport program run by the newly-formed Volunteer Resource Centre Initiative.