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North Shore residents give back to their community
How people volunteer is changing, says Sheila Gilmour.
For the past 47 years, she’s donated her time to various causes. Recently, Gilmour’s contributions as the founding member of the North Shore Community Foundation and the Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society were recognized by the B.C. Community Achievement Awards.
When it comes to volunteering, she’s seen it all, from establishing the North Shore Disability Resource Centre to volunteering with the Capilano Community Services Society. Gilmour’s also experienced the behind-the-scenes work church groups pour into fundraising and made her share of baked goods. But recently the 85-year-old has noticed a shift in volunteering.
“It is not the traditional groups of ladies that go and have bake sales for this and the other,” Gilmour says.
People are still willing to take on tasks, but on a more limited and focused basis, she says.
That’s what Bob Prenovost has capitalized on. He’s the founder of PM-Volunteers, an organization that pairs professionals with project management experience with not-for-profit groups. Currently, PM-Volunteers are working on 34 projects around the Lower Mainland, including the North Shore’s Lionsview Senior Planning Society. Project manager Karin Niesczeri is in charge of the society’s seniors survey, a questionnaire which is aimed to help organizations structure their programming.
“It’s a departure from the bake sale,” Prenovost says. “If there is something changing with the nature of volunteerism that is what it is. People want to leverage their skills.”
So far, PM-Volunteers’ 30 professionals have donated 1,700 hours across Vancouver. Thirteen projects have been completed, the majority of which are significant, intricate tasks, Prenovost notes.
“And we are just getting started,” he says.
Last year, community members donated 70,000 hours to the District of West Vancouver’s parks and community service.
“Volunteers play a huge role in the district of West Van,” says Anne Mooi, director of parks and community services.
Volunteers are incorporated into the daily operations at the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Centre and various organizations — such as West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society, the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society and the Old Growth Conservancy Society which help curb invasive species, maintain trails, monitor habitats and boost awareness of the district’s parks.
A number of experts volunteer to sit on the municipality’s boards and advisory committees, Mooi says. Last year, the West Vancouver Community Centre Society’s board donated 1,200 hours to aid the governance of the district’s aqua and rec centres. Through such organizations, citizens can help shape the community they live in, says Mooi.
“People are coming to volunteer on boards and advisory committees because they want to make meaningful contributions,” she says.
It’s not just seniors and professionals that are molding West Van. Last year, 425 youth volunteered with the district, 130 of them helping to run the municipality’s summer camp program.
West Van residents care deeply about their community, Mooi says, adding one of the municipality’s jobs is to offer the kind of volunteer opportunities they are looking for.
“People in the community will want to continue to give back to the community,” Mooi says.
To learn more about PM-Volunteers or to volunteer visit www.pm-volunteers.org.