We’re continuing to celebrate National Volunteer Week and the 22.7 million volunteers across Canada by featuring stories from local volunteers in action. This week we spoke with Elfrida who volunteered her time as an artist to help support Our Place Society.
How did you first hear about Our Place Society?
In 2007, the city was beginning to feel rather overwhelmed by the number of homeless people on the streets and was worried about its effect on tourists. With the overwhelming numbers of homelessness, Al Tysick headed up a campaign to raise money for a stable building/centre and it was in all the newspapers and other media platforms. Seeing the campaign was the first time I heard of Our Place Society.
Have you done any volunteer work prior to this?
Not really, as I was a mum and a full-time teacher for many years. It wasn’t until I retired that I really wanted to try doing a bit of volunteer work to see if it was a good fit. At the time when I first retired, unfortunately, it was not a good fit so I focused my time on having some fun painting.
What made you come up with the idea to volunteer your time to paint portraits to raise money for the organization?
I had just completed a month-long fast of sorts. I was feeling like I needed to be more useful, but I was also really getting into my painting. I realized that I love portraiture but not that many people want portraits. So, it just came to me on the last night of the fast that I should paint portraits of the people who were struggling to make a life without a home and had many other problems to contend with. I painted a couple of portraits, met with Al T. as well, in which his enthusiasm and help set me off to painting more. Money was raised ($27,00) with the help of two volunteer organizers and all that made for a wonderful combination of fun and helpfulness.
What were some challenges you faced when COVID-19 hit and plans had to change for the fundraiser?
Unfortunately, we had to store the idea of a grand show and fundraising event. However, with a pivot of plans we decided to do an Admired Women Online Series and we were actually able to raise more money than we envisioned ($47,000!!). People were looking to help out, they weren’t spending vacation/entertainment dollars either, so I believe this helped a lot too. Our Place Society has a very good reputation so it was a good place to send a charitable donation to and honour these hard working women and all they had contributed to their community. Overall, though it was a challenge when COVID-19 first hit in terms of changing plans, things still turned out great, even if they were not initially planned.
We love that you’ve volunteered so much time to this project, can you tell us a bit about the current project you’re working on with youth in your community?
Currently, I am painting a series of Young People, ages 18-29, who are contributing in many ways to their community. These young people vary from being advocates, organizers, and those who are fighting for justice, diversity, inclusion, and the environment. I am really appreciative of the work they are doing and am very impressed with their sensitivities, caring, and optimistic determination. It truly is a real blessing to meet them and paint their portraits to further contribute to making the world a better place.
These portraits will go to an online and live gallery to raise money. All funds from the sale of these will go directly to Our Place.
What is some advice you can give for those looking to volunteer and make an impact during COVID-19?
My big advice to anyone who wants to volunteer during COVID-19 or even when COVID-19 has passed is that when you do any volunteer work, it must feel right and make you happy. I don’t think you will last if you just do it because you think you should. Volunteering comes from the heart and you are more inclined to put more efforts in when it is something that feels right and makes you feel happy.