Days of Caring: Tapping into a talent pool to help non-profits

Charitable organizations welcome volunteer expertise.

There are more ways than simply donating money for individuals and employee groups to help charitable agencies in the Central Okanagan.

Expertise in specific skill areas can be translated into projects to help agencies in need, as can raw manpower to get projects completed that otherwise would never get off the ground.

The Central Okanagan United Way wants to ramp up a program called Days of Caring to help meet those needs, matching volunteer initiatives with non-profit organizations that need help.

The Kelowna Arthritis Centre office in the Stewart Centre on Kirshner Road is one example of matching the expertise of an employer, in this case Westwood Fine Cabinetry, with the need of the society to upgrade its limited kitchen/meeting room space.

Trudy Battaglio, manager of education and services for the Interior region (offered by the Arthritis Society), said the office had no furniture when they opened five years ago.

Clients were bringing in their own lawn chairs to attend society programs.

Battaglio used an old door as her desk, running the computer wires through the open door knob slot.

Since those early days, the society has expanded its services. In the past year the society officer served:

• 1,150 people through phone calls received at the centre;

• 176 people who walked through the door;

• 780 people attended public forums, workshops and programs to learn better how to manage their arthritis; and

• operated programs in 15 different communities across the Interior.

Meeting space at the society office has always been a challenge, Battaglia said, in noting that the donated cupboard space helps make better use of what space they have.

“This will make a huge difference for us,” Battalgia said.

From Westwood’s perspective, the drawings for the cupboard project were done by Andy Nowell, who has limited use of one of his hands due to arthritis.

Violet Frost, a human resources advisor for Westwood, said as their office became aware of the project, different departments stepped up to provide assistance.

While the project was a donation of time and supplies amounting to about $500, Frost said it helps make a personal connection between staff at Westwood. It also shows how one volunteer-driven project it the workplace can make a significant difference to a non-profit service agency struggling to deal with limited funds.

That’s the kind of con nection that is music to the ears of Avril Paice, community impact coordinator for the Central Okanagan United Way.

Paice said team volunteering in the workplace is becoming increasingly popular as a way for employers and their staff to give back to the community.

“We’re now getting about five to six inquiries a month from employers asking how they can get involved,” said Paice of  the Days of Caring program.

She said the program offers great team building benefits for an employer’s workforce, and allows them to focus their specific skills in an  effective way.

“You see the impact of what you can do, see up close why what you are doing as a project is important to that agency and you make a lasting connection to that non-profit organization,” Paice said.

With some 75 non-profit service agencies in the Central Okanagan trying to stay afloat in a time when government funding grants are being slashed, Paice said Days of Caring can help to address the impact those agencies face.

For more information about the Days of Caring program, call Avril Paice at the United Way office in Kelowna, 250-860-2356, ext. 106, or check out the website www.unitedwaycso.com.