Volunteer Canada officially celebrates and acknowledges the contribution of 12.7 million volunteers across Canada every year during National Volunteer Week. Volunteers are the Roots of Strong Communities is the national campaign theme for 2016. This years’ theme is coincidently, very appropriate as the Volunteer Association planted their roots of volunteerism at Ontario Shores 50 years ago!
When preparing for any milestone event, one usually initiates the process by probing through archived photos, files and mementos which will enhance a particular celebration. While preparing for our 50th anniversary celebration, our cherished archives are a strong visual reminder that volunteers envisioned the need to establish a healthy volunteer root system at our organization. Since 1966, volunteers have nourished the roots in our community and have formed lasting and meaningful connections, confirming that Volunteers are the Roots of Strong Communities!
Looking back over our formative years, it was during the 1950’s and 1960’s, that local church and service groups made regular informal visits to clients and provided entertainment and activities. As a result of this popular and informal programming, the Volunteer Association was founded on June 6, 1966. The Associations’ constitution and mandate was established. During the next decade, numerous patient programs were developed to meet patient needs such as The Good Luck Shop, Patient Library, Therapeutic Hub, Comfort Carts, One-to-One, Mental Health Clinic and Social Teas. It’s interesting to note, that many of these inaugural programs are still operational today.
During the 1970’s, the local community interest and program recruitment continually increased and so in September 1976, the first combined Annual Luncheon and Appreciation Awards took place hosted by the Hospital Administration.
In 1977, The Association moved from the volunteer advisory capacity to become an independent organization with a Board of Directors and a revised constitution. An application was made as a Registered Charitable organization and the Association became incorporated.
The focus shifted to a formalized volunteer registration, orientation and education. Additionally, departmental Policies and Procedures were also formalized. In the late 1980’s, a Quality Assurance Program was designed and the Association began a reporting system to the Community Advisory Board.
The 1990s ushered in a distinctive logo, a volunteer Mascot, Bea A. Volunteer, and a new banner “Strengthen the Link…Become a Volunteer.” A number participatory and fund raising events such as the Volunteer-A-Wish Tree set the stage for the Association’s 25th Anniversary, June 6, 1991.
Since divestment in 2006, volunteer engagement has increased each consecutive year. In fact, in 2015 we achieved the highest number of volunteer hours in our 50 year history! Our dedicated staff plays an integral role in the successful placement and supervision of new volunteer recruits on Patient Care Units. We are very appreciative of their wonderful support. Our community linkages and partnerships remain strong, particularly with local universities and colleges.
The continuous desire by volunteers to give back to the community, help eliminate stigma and provide hope for those living with mental illness is proof that volunteers are the roots of strong communities! We are very proud of our 50 year legacy at Ontario Shores and look forward to another 50 great years of inspiring, sharing and caring.
Happy 50th Anniversary Volunteers past and present! Thank you for all you do!