Information Orillia is set to launch a new Orillia Volunteer Centre this month.
With the help of Age Friendly Orillia’s advisory committee, Information Orillia operations administrator, Ann Kleiser, and volunteer centre coordinator, Barb Powell, planted the seeds for the new community resource earlier this year by applying for an Employment and Social Development Canada grant.
“We wanted to set up a volunteer centre in Orillia that would primarily connect seniors to different volunteer opportunities in Orillia,” Kleiser explained. “We want to get seniors out of their homes and back out engaging in the community.”
A kiosk is set up inside Information Orillia’s office within the Orillia Public Library where potential volunteers can find information about volunteer opportunities in the community and get connected.
“People can come in, work with Barb, go through the kiosk, and go through the various opportunities that are available,” Kleiser said. “Barb will work with them to hopefully find a match."
While the purpose of the grant is to help seniors, Kleiser hopes the program will also help stay-at-home moms looking to get involved in the community, high school students looking for community service hours, and other community members looking to be connected with local opportunities.
“The conversation started because of the need for re-engaging seniors with the community post-pandemic,” Kleiser said.
Powell herself is a senior who has volunteered with Information Orillia for the past year.
“I had been living in England for 30 years and retired back to Canada just before the pandemic,” she explained. “When I moved here, I was looking for opportunities and this is the first place I came.”
When Powell moved back to Canada, she said it was difficult for her to get established in the community, even though she is considered by her peers to be an outgoing person.
“We were in lockdown, and I was in a new place,” she said. “Without knowing anyone, I struggled to find opportunities. Nobody should have to go through that.”
The mission of Information Orillia is to connect people to services and resources, which fits perfectly with the Orillia Volunteer Centre, Kleiser explained.
The non-profit organization also knows first-hand that there is a dire need for volunteers in the community.
“During the pandemic, we lost a lot of our volunteers,” Kleiser said. “Without them, we can’t operate.”
The impact on seniors was also significant, Kleiser says. Without volunteer opportunities, a lot of seniors were left feeling isolated.
“Volunteering is something that gives great social connections,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn some life skills and to develop some employment connections.”
The Orillia Volunteer Centre will launch on Nov. 23. The same information found in the kiosk can be found on Information Orillia’s website. You can also give them a call at 705-326-7743