When the Volunteer Resource Centre first opened its modest doors 30 years ago, no one could have predicted that the agency would go so far to serve community connections as much as it serves the community itself.
Now called the Community Information and Volunteer Centre (CIVC), the non-profit volunteer-based organization plays a major role in finding matches between people and opportunities. During Monday’s proclamation of National Volunteer Week in St. Albert, Mayor Nolan Crouse stated that 80 per cent of this city’s residents volunteer their time to help others, a higher figure than the provincial average of 52 per cent and well above the national average of 33 per cent. The CIVC refers hundreds of clients annually to approximately 250 community organizations in St. Albert and the surrounding area. When you consider how many people volunteer at more than one of these places, the picture gets a little more clear: St. Albert cares and the CIVC is there to make sure we all have a place to help out.
What makes it even more unique is that a similar agency in Edmonton doesn’t quite compare. Last month, the CIVC hosted a delegation of representatives from various non-profit organizations in Japan. The tour was meant to demonstrate its leadership and success as a volunteer centre. At the time, Pat Blakney, the director of voluntary sector services within the government of Alberta’s ministry of Culture and Community Spirit, explained why the visit was arranged.
“The CIVC is one of the top volunteer centres in the province as far as we’re concerned,” she said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Volunteer Canada, the national initiative that promotes volunteerism, only came into existence three years before the former Volunteer Resource Centre was founded. It seems like St. Albert knows its roots are stronger and healthier when more people work together for the common good.
“The collective result of the work done by our city’s volunteers is that St. Albert is a more desirable place to live,” Crouse stated during his proclamation speech.
“St. Albert would not be the city it is without volunteers,” added Pat Phelan, the CIVC’s director of volunteer centre services. Executive director Glynis Thomas concurred on the point, especially on how it reflects on the importance of the agency itself. The humble CIVC, much like the volunteers it works with, often does not fly its own flag.
“I believe that a volunteer centre is a critical component of a healthy community,” Thomas began, referencing newly announced Volunteer Citizen of the Decade Margaret Plain’s analogy about volunteers at the botanic park. “That sounds like an easy thing to say but if you really think about volunteers and what volunteerism does to a community … the more that people participate in a number of different areas, the more likely they are going to feel engaged and a part of [the community].”
To Thomas, greater volunteer participation equals a healthier, happier community.
“They’re going to feel better about where it is that they live, better about themselves, better about other people. I don’t know that we always really genuinely understand that linkage around volunteerism. A volunteer centre helps to manage that level of participation.”
In conjunction with National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Alberta is conducting a province-wide census, asking all volunteers and agencies to register for a chance to win prizes. The main objective is to get volunteers to stand up, be recognized and know that they are valued. To participate, please visit www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca.
Community Information and Volunteer Centre
#10, 215 Carnegie Drive<br />780-459-6666<br />www.stalbertcivc.com