Enid J Bradley

KCR: Volunteering in a pandemic requires adaptability

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Over the past year, all of us have had to adapt as we have navigated a world-wide pandemic.

Whether it was for work, school, shopping, banking or our family life, how we did things had to change and we had to adapt.

Volunteers and non-profit organizations also had to adapt and for many that has been a difficult to do. Volunteers love sharing their skills and knowledge and for many of them, volunteerism is part of their social lives.

Senior volunteers in particular were a vulnerable demographic and so their volunteer wings were clipped very quickly.

Organizations rely on volunteers to help achieve their missions and so when this resource was suddenly not able to come and help, it left a big gap for organizations to try and fill.

For Enid Bradley, a yoga volunteer instructor at the Downtown Y, it was stop-start-stop-start scenario that many of us have experienced.

“It has been an interesting journey this past 12+ months. I started 2020 teaching two yoga classes per week – one beginner/intermediate traditional yoga class and one chair yoga class,” said Enid, explaining that when the Y first reopened, all classes were taught by staff and she wasn’t able to get back to teaching again until October and then only until November when the increased restrictions again meant volunteers were unable to teach.

“I returned to the Downtown Y mid-January 2021 to teach chair yoga, however, the classes were reduced to 5 in-person students and on-line attendance optional for other members,” Enid continued.

“I continue to teach chair yoga and look forward to the time when in-person traditional yoga classes will begin again with volunteer instructors.”

It’s been a difficult year for volunteers and also for the volunteer managers that have been coordinating programs, trying to ensure they look after the health and welfare of their volunteers and also ensure that the organization’s programs and services continue. Volunteer managers by nature like working with people and so not being able to keep their volunteers engaged at a level that they would like to has been hard for them.

Luckily, things appear to be improving with vaccination rates increasing and as we have found ways to continue “business as usual” in new and innovative ways. To support Volunteer managers and help them with engaging with their volunteers,Kelowna Community Resources will host a two-part workshop Re-Engaging Volunteers in 2021 and Beyond on June 22 and June 29.

This free workshop explores the latest trends and tools in recruitment, engagement/retention, social media, and more.

The content is focused on information pertaining to supporting volunteers ages 55+, but will be applicable to volunteers of any age group.

For more information or to register go to www.kcr.ca/volunteer or give Emily a call at 250-763-8008, ext.141.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources, a multi-service agency offering programs and services to meet community, family and individual needs. KCR is home to the Volunteer Centre of the Central Okanagan. You can contact Dorothee at 250-860-4911 or email dorothee@kcr.ca.