The Transformative Work of Volunteers

There are many phrases that acknowledge the value of people working together for the common good. “It takes a village to raise a child,” the old saying says, for example, or “Many hands make light work.”

The staff at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto (CCAT)–as well as the CCAT member agencies– know well how important the advice, wise counsel, and, sometimes, the extra set of hands, of volunteers can be. For us, volunteers are part of the Catholic Charities family, always willing to help and serve as needed, and for that, we are truly grateful.

When thinking of volunteers, the first who come to mind are our board of directors.  The people who serve as directors are an invaluable sounding board and add an additional level of scrutiny to all that we do, helping us to ensure we are doing the best to serve vulnerable communities while reflecting sound stewardship. Members, who are recommended by a Nominating or Governance Committee and then approved by the Board, play a key role in the life of Catholic Charities and member agencies. This group of volunteers offers highly expensive, otherwise not-so-affordable services for nonprofits, pro-bono work that runs into so many hours which allows Catholic Charities and the member agencies to enhance the work and stretch our limited resources.  The advice, the expertise, the insights, and the practical suggestions offered by board members help CCAT and agencies ensure the best outcomes in decisions relating to the quality of service delivery to program users. They lend a rich and diverse set of backgrounds to the work that we do — lawyers, accountants, human resources professionals, social workers, teachers, and any number of other careers that can inform the vital decisions made around the boardroom table.  

But our vast community of volunteers are also selected because of other items on their resumes, including such gifts as a theological education or volunteer experience, as the decisions and steps Catholic Charities and member agencies take in any given year are informed not only by dollars and cents but also by Catholic Social Teaching, and a hands-on knowledge of how the Church lives out its faith in practical ways.

For agencies that are tight for resources, these volunteers who are people with outstanding goodwill for the greater good of our community, make the work possible and provide opportunities to scale up an agency’s reach, scope, and impact. These volunteers allow agencies to increase their capacity to offer services to more people and increase the quality of services they provide.

When volunteers get closer to the work that takes place in agencies and learn of the challenges their communities face, whether we are talking about teen moms, or people new to Canada, or lonely seniors, we share the experience – and the privilege – of seeing the vulnerability in others. That vulnerability resides in all of us in various ways, and it links us directly to Christ. The staff and volunteers who learn to recognize that vulnerability in others take that knowledge with us, their lives changed.

There is a true bond that forms when you’re a volunteer embraced by the Catholic Charities family.  Recently, Marion Barszczyk, a beloved former Catholic Charities employee, passed away. After her former colleagues were informed, those volunteers who had worked closely with Marion were told of her death. As the message we received said, “I know how close you were with Marion.”

Absolutely true —and a sign that volunteers are respected, valued, and appreciated—just as they appreciate the opportunity to serve.

As we celebrate Catholic Charities Week, we also celebrate our volunteers. We are profoundly grateful for the help they lend to our work, and we are delighted to be able to offer the opportunity to serve because often, our volunteers say they’ve received more than they’ve given.

For us, volunteering is a win-win scenario. Thank you!



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