Kelowna leads Canada 150 challenge

By Marla O’Brien

Canada is known for many things, with its people’s spirit of generosity often topping the list. So what better way to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial than to acknowledge and support volunteerism?

“We have a basic instilled sense to be compassionate and help one another,” says Dawn Wilkinson, community services manager at Kelowna Community Resources (KCR). “This year gives us an opportunity for the whole concept of volunteering to be acknowledged, valued and respected.”

With this in mind, volunteer centres across the nation are promoting the 150 for 150 Challenge, encouraging citizens to log 150 hours of volunteer hours during the year. While giving three hours a week may seem daunting to some, Wilkinson sites statistics indicating that 44 percent of Canadians already average 154 hours per year.

“Part of the surprise is recognizing how much we really do,” Wilkinson explains.

Volunteering is defined as giving of one’s time for the common good or public benefit without financial reward. Many regularly do activities that fit this definition without even thinking of it as volunteerism, such as shoveling a neighbour’s driveway, coaching a sports team, or taking care of an ill friend.

Such informal acts of generosity contribute immeasurably to the overall health of a community. KCR received a Canada 150 grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation, to encourage and promote all these collective gifts of time.

Wilkinson admits one challenge is that volunteers often aren’t looking for recognition and, therefore, capturing an accurate record of their involvement can be difficult. This is where another local organization comes in, one that is making a difference on the national stage.

Volinspire.com is the brainchild of Sheldon Gardiner and Jeff Hoffart, both passionate advocates for helping individuals, businesses and nonprofits create meaningful impact in an easy-to-navigate and fun way. Over the past two years, the entrepreneurs developed an online community engagement platform that hosts a suite of giving-related functions; it is a place to collect inspiring stories, allows volunteers to find opportunities with local nonprofits and log their hours, and helps business engage their employees in community development work.

Earlier this year, Volinspire was chosen as the common online platform to be used across Canada to register and track everyone up for the 150 for 150 Challenge.

“It’s truly about the impact being made,” explains Hoffart. “Even if you don’t give 150 hours, think about all the informal giving and random acts of kindness, and what our community would be like if those didn’t happen.”

And the company is practicing what it preaches—they’ve already contributed over $30,000 worth of staff time to perfect their software and promote it for Canada’s anniversary.

Thanks to the efforts of KCR and Volinspire, among others, Kelowna is currently leading the nation on a per capita basis for the percentage of citizen registered for the Challenge and total hours given.

With six months to go, everyone is invited to get involved. Simply visit any of the following websites to learn more: www.volinspire.com, www.kcr.ca, www.volunteer150for150.ca