Full steam ahead.
Just hours after wrapping up the inaugural Langley Volunteers meet-and-greet Saturday, organizers are already focused on their next project – a massive recruitment drive.
Now the major goal is to recruit volunteers and match them with the non-profit organizations in town that are in need of volunteers, explained Karen Long, president of the new volunteer agency.
She describes her group as “matchmakers,” and said Saturday was an “incredible” first step.
“The day was well beyond our expectations and there was an overwhelming feeling of community in the room,” Long said of the afternoon event at Douglas Rec Centre Saturday that attracted 17 non-profits and about 100 people looking for ways to help out in their community.
“Many of the organizations were very impressed with the response they received from the people who signed up as interested volunteers. Darla from the Aldergrove Fair said that it was ‘A terrific opportunity to connect with new and much needed volunteers.’ I met the Langley GoGos, who I wasn’t aware of… And a representative from Fraser Health came to the meet-and-greet looking for volunteer opportunities for shut in seniors who wanted to get involved in volunteering.”
Twyla Vokins is the volunteer coordinator for the Salvation Army, and she attended Saturday’s event with hopes of finding some volunteers to assist with a few of the programs at the Gateway of Hope homeless shelter in Langley.
They have 403 shifts a month in their daily meal centre, where they serve 10,000 meals a month to Langley’s disenfranchised and struggling. The demand for volunteers to assist with that program, as well as others, is huge, Vokins said.
In addition to needing volunteers to assist with meals, she was hopeful she could build up what she calls her special events crew.
“I’d really like to see that grow,” she said, a program that better accommodates volunteers available only on evenings or weekends.
Vokins was impressed by the number of people in attendance Saturday, and optimistic her organization will see some new volunteers come out of the crowd.
Zosia Ettenberg, one of the Langley Volunteer founders, was on hand representing Langley Pos-Abilities.
“We need a bunch of volunteers to help us with our wheelchair obstacle course, setting it up and taking it down,” she said.
They’re also in need of volunteers to staff their booths at community events, to do minor repairs and delivery of equipment to clients, or even to join their board of directors.
“With no staff, it’s a working board. Everyone pitches in to get things done,” she said, noting her Pos-Abilities is now in its seventh year helping improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, including those living with mobility issues, hearing loss blindness, plus many other conditions requiring assistive devices.
Ettenberg sees Langley as a “very giving community,” and having the new Langley Volunteers in place will give many of those “giving” people a one-stop-shop where they can go and find out how best to help, when they’re available.
“I think, personally, that Langley Volunteers is going to be the go to place for volunteers, as we grow,” she added.
Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities also had some volunteers in attendance this past weekend, trying to recruit more volunteers.
They need volunteers willing to lead horses, people to help in the barns, groomers, fundraise, and help in a number of other facets.
“This is an ideal opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved with horses and kids,” said Marianne Nyland, the barn boss and relative newbie to the 44-year-old organization.
Four years ago, she started out walking along side kids on horses, graduated to tack prep ahead of classes, and in short order took over organizing much of the barn operations.
“This is a great way to get heard out in the community, getting people to know about what we do, our facility, and recruitment of volunteers,” said Bill Hendricks, one of PRDA’s volunteer coordinators.
He noted that the centre sees 173 riders per week, and they need about 170 to 180 volunteers in that same period of time – people who want to help make it all possible.
Hearing responses like this, Long was impressed how well the weekend’s “matchmaking event” was received, and suggested they might make it an annual event.
In the meantime, “we will be out in the community at local events to raise our profile, increase our agency membership, sign up volunteers, and promote volunteerism in Langley,” Long said.
Organizations in attendance Saturday were:
• Langley Hospice Society
• Langley Care Society (Langley Lodge)
• Aldergrove Fair
• Chron’s and Colitis Canada – Fraser Valley West (Gutsy Walk)
• Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Langley
• Canadian Cancer Society (BC Yukon division)
• Langley Community Farmers Market Society
• Ishtar Transition Housing Society
• Langley City Lions
• Langley Elks Lodge #259
• Bard in the Valley
• Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation
• Langley Pos-Abilities Society
• Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities
• Terry Fox Run – Langley City
• Langley Association for Community Living
• The Gateway of Hope
Other members of the new Langley Volunteers, that were not in attendance include:
• Langley Arts Council
• Langley Centennial Museum
• Downtown Langley Business Association, and
• Aldergrove Business Association.
Those looking for more information, applications, and volunteer opportunities can visit www.LangleyVolunteers.ca, or call 604-897-7278.