One of my favourite and most rewarding parts of my job is arranging Days of Caring®. In short, it is a volunteer event where volunteers from a business or group in town comes together to help one of our member agencies complete a project they might not have had the resources to do.
The long answer is so much more than that. It’s team building, philanthropy, giving, caring, supporting and, most of all, fun!
I had no idea what to expect on my first Days of Caring®. I was brand new to the United Way of Fort McMurray and focused on our upcoming campaign. I arrived for the day at the Golden Years Society and met with Ken Saunderson, Vice President, who was welcoming the Syncrude volunteers to help with work that would have been very difficult for them to get completed without assistance.
The project for the day was to help level the storage shed at the Golden Years Society and create a pathway for easy accessibility to the shed. The Golden Years Society is a centre for seniors in Fort McMurray.
This was a lot of work for anyone, and luckily didn’t rest alone on the shoulders of the seniors or the workers and volunteers at Golden Years. The sun was very hot that day and the work was hard – what struck me most as they day went on, was the smiles on the volunteer’s faces. Some of the volunteers knew each other well, some meeting for the first time that day. They worked as a solid team and treated the task as if it was their own home project. I left that day with aching shoulders and a full heart.
More recently, the Fort McMurray Junior Trappers along with their coach and parents went to Pastew Place Detox Centre. On this particular day, I wasn’t feeling 100-percent and wasn’t looking forward to the day like I ordinarily would. My attitude changed very quickly.
Upon arriving at the Detox Centre, Executive Director, Amber Fort, explained briefly to the Junior Trappers what Pastew Place does and how they help people. My heart ached for a moment as these children (aged 9 to 11) answered questions that I was hoping they didn’t know the answers to; but they knew more than I gave them credit for.
“What is an addiction?” asked Fort.
“An addiction is when they love drugs and alcohol so much, that they can’t imagine not loving it,” said one little boy.
After the brief introduction, they dove into some treats to get their energy up for the task ahead of them. The job for the day was to clean up the yard before winter. The yard is used as a relaxing space for the patrons of Pastew Place, a space where they can go to reflect and enjoy nature. The large group cleaned up the yard in record time and it looked incredible once they were done. The coach rounded up the players for a quick cheer and asked them to remind him of why they were there today
“Fun,” said one.
“Helping,” said another.
“Community,” shared a third.
That day started with weariness and ended with hope inspired by these young leaders who choose to lend a helping hand.
So, when asked what is my favourite part of my job, the short answer is getting the opportunity to see people come together to support one another; the long answer is so much more.