Brock University employees were out in the local community this week volunteering their time and learning first-hand the impact of their contributions.
In recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 7 to 13, faculty and staff were encouraged to volunteer half of their paid workday with one of four local not-for-profit organizations.
Nearly two dozen employees from across a variety of departments volunteered a combined 55 hours, performing tasks such as sorting food and clothing donations at Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, organizing training materials and first aid kits at Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara Region and creating sustainable hygiene kits with Days for Girls.
Liz Keenan, Administrative Assistant for the Faculty of Graduate Studies, spent Wednesday afternoon sanding and painting donated furniture at Niagara Furniture Bank, which collects used home furnishings such as tables, chairs, dressers, couches, linens and kitchen utensils to give to people in need across Niagara.
“I learned a new skill today,” she said. “I’ve painted a bit at home, but I’ve never sanded before.
“It’s really nice to see all of the work they do here that people aren’t exposed to in their everyday lives. Volunteering gave me a new perspective and has encouraged me to donate to these types of organizations in the future.”
Nancy Sutton, Executive Director for the furniture bank, said high housing and rental costs has made it more difficult for people to afford shelter, let alone furniture and houseware.
“Niagara has experienced increasing housing costs and we’re really feeling the effect here,” she said. “We delivered furniture to 629 households last year, which was the largest number of people needing our services to date — and we’re on our way to a record-breaking first quarter for 2019.”
Sutton added that owning furniture is motivation for people to stay in their own homes instead of returning to shelters or sofa-surfing.
“It gives people dignity, especially if they have children,” she said. “They feel as if they have a furnished home of their own. If their accommodation is empty, chances are, they’re going back to a shelter or to a friends’ place.”
This is the fifth year Brock University has proudly participated in National Volunteer Week.
Brock President Gervan Fearon said the University is committed to sustaining long-term community partnerships that support and foster the growth of the local region.
“Enhancing the life and vitality of Niagara is a key priority of the University,” he said. “Brock was founded thanks the benevolent actions of the community. It is therefore our responsibility to continue nurturing a culture of compassion and participatory citizenship.”
Kristen Smith, Manager of Student and Community Outreach in Student Life and Community Experience, helps co-ordinate the connections between Brock and its community partners.
“It’s important for faculty and staff to connect with the local community and experience first-hand what’s involved at the agency level,” she said. “Employees were able to assist local community partners while gaining an understanding of the need for social services in our local communities.”
Smith encourages faculty, staff and students interested in continuing their volunteer involvement to visit ExperienceBU.
Anyone interested in donating home furnishings to Niagara Furniture Bank is encouraged to visit niagarafurniturebank.com