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Volunteerism 101, the Grade 5 way

Leo Nickerson teacher Andrea Daly invited representatives from the Community Information and Volunteer Centre to stop by and talk to her students about the importance of volunteerism, all while the kids were in the middle of creating 150 handmade thank you cards to be given out during the organization's volunteer appreciation luncheon.

Volunteering is as elementary as ABC and 123, as a Grade 5 class at Leo Nickerson Elementary School demonstrated recently. While teacher Andrea Daly was overseeing the kids’ art project of making thank-you cards, representatives from the Community Information and Volunteer Centre stopped by to talk about volunteerism as a fun and healthy thing to do

“Volunteering is important because, you know what, nothing would be done. This school actually wouldn’t run if there weren’t volunteers as Andrea would attest to,” remarked Tracy Aisenstat, director of volunteer centre services at the CIVC.

Daly agreed, adding that the cards made for a great excuse to get the kids listening to adults talk about giving freely of their time and energy while also working on a fun, creative project. Volunteerism, she said, is exactly what her students should be learning about to set them up to be happier, better adults.

“These guys are really excited to be involved with and talking a lot about volunteerism. It actually connects perfectly with a Grade 5 health curriculum. We talk about the importance of volunteering in the community and we’ve been brainstorming all the different ways that we’ve already done volunteering in our school community.”

It’s true. Even at the young age of 11, many of the students are already familiar with volunteering, having practised it in many forms during their lives. Even if they don’t think about it under that term, they know what it is and what it means to themselves and others.

When Natalie Shaw of Sidekicks Mentoring when to the front of the class to discuss the importance of volunteering, she put the question out to the students: why do it? Sure, kids sometimes say the darndest things, but this time, they had some very mature and astute responses.

  • “Volunteering is helping someone and not expecting anything in return.”
  • “It’s the right thing to do.”
  • “If there’s somebody that needs help with something, you just volunteer. You would go and help that person because you know it’s good to do it.”
  • “It makes your heart feel warm and it gives you a good reputation.”
  • “It gives you great character.”

Some of the students proudly announced that they have volunteered with things like food bank drives and doing bottle drives for different charities. They also talked about participating in the Hair Massacure, visiting seniors’ homes, helping with the recycling at school, cleaning up the litter around the neighbourhood, and more. Aisenstat pointed out that they’re mostly 11 but more volunteer opportunities will open up for them as they get older, even starting in 2020.

“By this time next year, you’re going to be 12. That means you get to volunteer at the Children’s Festival. That is a great volunteer opportunity.”

Daly noted how her side work as co-chair of StArts Fest also shows how much good can be accomplished when people do things that they love.

“I wanted to show that adults need to continue volunteering and that it can start as a childhood passion. As they grow and move into adulthood, there’s so many different opportunities for them to be volunteers in the community. What we really talked about was finding something you’re passionate about to volunteer. If you’re a hockey person, then find something in the hockey community that you can help with. If you happen to be an arts person like myself, then finding an opportunity to volunteer that aligns with what you’re excited about.”

After the talk, the kids went right back to making their cards, all 150 of them. The cards were just one of the ways that the CIVC is marking National Volunteer Week, which runs April 7 to 13. They were to be distributed during a special volunteer appreciation event being held this Wednesday evening. The volunteer thespians with the St. Albert Dinner Theatre put on a special run-through of their new show, Barely Heirs, as a way of continuing the tradition of volunteers thanking volunteers.

The CIVC also hands out free coffee coupons as part of its annual efforts to show the many hundreds of St. Albert volunteers that they are indeed appreciated. National Volunteer Week promoted its theme of “Lifting Communities,” but Aisenstat had another preference that seemed to better represent the volunteer card-making and free stage performance, all done by and for volunteers.

“My personal theme is ‘Volunteers Supporting Volunteers.’ Part of these kids volunteering their time to thank volunteers is definitely about that. It’s all about give and take.”