We give where we live

You must be the change you want to see in the world” – Gandhi

I realized from a pretty young age that volunteers truly make the world go round. Growing up, I observed my Mom helping out in numerous ways in our community – she started a lunch program at my elementary school, she was the President of our community centre association, she played an integral role in organizing a female hockey league in our hometown, and she formed and managed a team that my sister and I played on for many years. I admired her motivation to want to improve our lives and the community we lived in.  It’s not hard to see why my sister and I felt inspired to volunteer in our own communities.

When I moved to downtown Vancouver three years ago, I saw an opportunity to give back to my community in a meaningful way.  I love my community – it is so diverse – and rather than complain about the issue of homelessness, I wanted to be part of the solution.  My grandmother has always been fond of the wonderful work the Salvation Army does and she suggested I look into a volunteer opportunity with them. I was excited about the idea of becoming an agent of change, and this was the perfect opportunity to get to know my community better.

The Gang

A typical Saturday for me at the Salvation Army Belkin House entails working with a volunteer team to prep food and serve meals to approximately 100 patrons of the facility over lunch hour. I am inspired by the other volunteers I work with – some have been volunteering for many years, some volunteer for several days a week, and some used to be patrons of the facility themselves – each with their own stories about why they want to give back. My friend Richard has been volunteering at Salvation Army for over a decade. I know when I show up for my weekly shift I will be greeted with a smile and a big hug.  It is volunteers like Richard who have made me realize that volunteering isn’t about “serving humanity”, but rather it’s about connecting with humanity (and also having some fun while we’re at it)!

Melissa and Richard

Nearly three years later, I continue to volunteer with the Salvation Army every Saturday.  What I’ve learned is that volunteering simply requires you to give a little of yourself in exchange for receiving so much more – feeling a sense of pride, sharing my strengths and developing new skills, building empathy, making new friends and connecting with my community members – which is what motivates me to continue to volunteer. The benefits gained from volunteering are far greater than money could ever return, and fortunately to get started you only have to invest your time.

On May 25, TELUS team members across the country will be giving back to their communities. I hope my story has inspired others to give where they live, and who knows, maybe volunteering for one day just might inspire others to incorporate it into a regular part of their lives.

If you want the chance to win $10,000 for the charity of your choice, you can enter TELUS’ cool give where we live photo contest. Just upload your photos showing how you give back in your community to www.givewherewelive.ca. 10 people will win $10,000 each for their favourite charity! You can also share your stories and join the conversation #givewherewelive.

Watch Melissa’s story