What do the Head Lake Welcome Centre, an upcoming production of The Sound of Music and the Haliburton County Public Library’s new online streaming service have in common?
All were made possible by volunteers. National volunteer week, hosted by Volunteer Canada, runs April 24-30 and many County groups say now is a great time to get involved.
Brigitte Gebauer, Haliburton Highlands Health Services’ (HHHS) coordinator of volunteer services, said there’s an “urgent” need for empathetic volunteers for jobs such as driving patients to medical visits, checking in over the phone, delivering meals or connecting with people living in long-term care homes.
HHHS volunteers have often found it a gratifying experience.
“When you give your time, you get so much more back than you give,” Gebauer said.
Volunteering with HHHS begins with an interview, safety checks and ample training.
Then, Gebauer and her colleagues monitor volunteers to make sure they’re enjoying their roles. She said volunteers “have really stepped up” during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that Haliburton County has a “wealth of volunteer spirit.”
Funding for health
HHHS is also supported by a crew of dedicated volunteers who fundraise to fill financial gaps.
The Minden Healthcare Auxiliary issued a public plea for new volunteers in March.
President Anne Stephens said the group is in a “crunch,” with only around 20 active volunteers, down from about 40 prior to the pandemic.
“We’re really just a group of people who are keen to raise money to help our hospital and long-term care,” she said.
The auxiliary helped purchase new medical devices, industrial food preparation equipment and more.
Stephens recounted how one time a stretcher at the hospital broke: the group quickly rallied to purchase a new one right away.
Keeping the music alive
CanoeFM couldn’t broadcast without its passionate volunteer community.
“It’s a lot of fun. that’s what we hear all the time,” said station manager Roxanne Casey.
The station is currently looking for volunteer show hosts. They broadcast talk shows, classical tunes, rock, folk and more. Casey said there’s ample training for those who want to hop on board. It’s a chance to practice communication skills and learn new technology in a low-consequence environment, she said.
The Highlands is home to a broad range of other musical and theatrical societies that rely on volunteers.
For example, the Haliburton County Folk Society regularly brings world-renowned musical acts to the Highlands. Volunteers also facilitate local open mic nights and songwriting circles with local musicians.
Serving with pride
Peter Dickson and Dave Mullins, co-presidents of the Dorset Lions Club, list local landmarks and community projects the group has helped fund, build or maintain such as the lush Dorset Lions Centennial Park.
Dickson said the group has a special focus on fundraising for healthcare and has donated thousands to the Dorset Community Health hub.
“Those are the things that make people’s lives better,” he said.
Mullins said it’s rewarding to know the club can help improve the town’s quality of life.
He added that club barbecues and dinners are a chance to meet people and feel more involved in the community.
On Sept. 23, they’ll be offering food at a Shipyard Kitchen Party fundraiser at the Dorset Pavilion to help raise money for the health hub and other community initiatives.
Mullins encouraged anyone living in Algonquin Highlands to send the club an email (email@example.com) to get involved.
It’s impossible to walk around any pocket of Haliburton County without seeing the work of service clubs, whether it’s a Lions club, Rotary branch or other fundraising groups.
There are Lions clubs in Dorset, Minden and Haliburton, Rotary clubs in Minden and Haliburton and other independent groups such as the Wilberforce FUNdraising club which helps sponsor university students, school lunch programs, reading clubs and more.
Helping hungry families
Charlene Daviau started volunteering at the Central Food Network in Wilberforce in 2021. She helps sort donations, stock shelves and conduct day-to-day operations.
“I’ve seen since I’ve started a difference in how busy we are,” she said. Daviau said rising food costs make places such as the Food Network even more important to communities like Wilberforce.
“I’m hoping I’ve made a difference, I know it’s made a difference in me personally,” she said.
The Haliburton 4Cs Food Bank and Minden Community Food Centre also offer supplies for people in need and are staffed by passionate volunteers helping to fill Highlander cupboards.