Volunteers rewarded for community efforts

If Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau’s annual appreciation dinner last Wednesday night was any indication, volunteerism is alive and well in Rainy River District.
More than 125 district residents attended the celebration upstairs at the Legion, which this year honoured 10 individuals and one grade eight class for their contributions to various volunteer programs.
“It’s really encouraging to see so many people out. It just keeps getting bigger and better,” Joan Pearson, executive director of the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau, enthused Monday morning.
“When we first started this, if we had 50-60 people come that was a big do!” she reflected.
“The dinner was a super success,” echoed Renee McDonald, president of the local volunteer bureau. “It is just great the response we get from volunteers in this community.”
Among the volunteers recognized at the dinner were Allan Sutherland and Leola Mesdag (income tax program), Teddy Bone and her daughter, Elaine Aveyard (pet visiting program), Jennifer Dent (craft class at Front Street Manor), and Jim Zucchiatti (Special Olympics).
Also honoured were Laurie Brown, Brenda Meyers, and Helen Pohanka (literacy tutors).
Youth volunteer Jayson McFarlane, 13, and Cathy Baron’s grade eight class from Robert Moore School rounded out the honourees.
McFarlane came to the volunteer bureau last summer looking to help out and has since lent a hand to the Community Living program, the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal, and a recent “Friendly Visiting” program at Rainycrest.
The grade eight class also was involved in the “Friendly Visiting” program at Rainycrest, which included writing letters and sending Valentine’s Day cards to residents there.
“This ‘Friendly Visiting’ program was a very important [experience] for the young people,” noted Pearson. “They learned how to [volunteer] with people as opposed to doing just yard work.
“They experienced the frail elderly and the disabled, and became more compassionate,” she added.
“The [youths] were fantastic,” echoed McDonald. “It gives them the opportunity to realize what volunteering is all about and as they grow older, they will [benefit] from it.”
She was referring to the advantages of having volunteer work listed on a resume. For students looking for work, that kind of community involvement can help land a potential job.
“I think the students know the worth volunteering gives to everybody . . . that it is important, and good, and worthwhile,” said Baron. “And they understand that it’s important for their future.”
Baron recently introduced work portfolios to her students wherein they can keep a record of any volunteering they’ve done.
“For any volunteer work they do inside or outside of school, they bring me a note from whoever they did the work for and I issue a volunteer certificate for it,” she explained.
“It can be used for job searches, references, and even college scholarships,” she stressed.
That’s a “future” consideration youth volunteer Chris Fraser, 17, is keeping in mind.
A grade 11 student at Fort High, Fraser spends a couple of hours a week volunteering at Front Street Manor, and he’s hoping to increase his involvement with the volunteer bureau over the summer months.
“It’s a lot of fun meeting new people and it makes me feel really good about myself,” he said. “And it’s good experience that can help you get a job.”