Mom beats isolation through volunteering at her neighbourhood family centre.

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week and we are sharing stories from just a few of the thousands of volunteers who work with United Way and our agency partners. Thank you to all volunteers, you grow love!

Manilyn Janzen has only missed two volunteer shifts at the Blake Gardens Resource Centre Fruit and Veggie Market in the past year.

One of those was five days after her son Lukas was born, but she still showed up to show him off to her friends and neighbours.

Manilyn Janzen, with 5-day-old Lukas, has gained skills and left isolation behind through her volunteer work.

Manilyn Janzen, with 5-day-old Lukas, has gained skills and left isolation behind through her volunteer work.

“I always came to the resource centre for the Fruit & Veggie Market anyway, and one day they needed help,” said Manilyn of how she started volunteering.

The volunteer work helped the 26-year-old single mom of (now) two boys get out of her apartment in the Blake Gardens housing complex and meet people.

“I was isolated. Before I did not know anyone after a year of living here, and now everyone is like, ‘hi Manilyn.’”

Caprice Kehler, community facilitator at NorWest Co-op Community Health which operates the resource centre, says about 30 people take advantage of the market each week. She said the market requires three volunteers and one staff member to operate.

NorWest, a United Way agency partner, is embracing volunteerism and what it means to the community.

“Through United Way we now have a volunteer training program, and since it started I’d say we now have about eight really dedicated volunteers at Blake Gardens,” said Caprice.

Manilyn is an example of how volunteering can impact a person’s life in positive ways, Caprice said.

“I’ve seen Manilyn’s self-confidence increase and her isolation decrease. And she’s a very hard worker – she could run that market by herself.”

Manilyn says she has also gained many useful skills, making her more valuable to employers.

“If you have volunteering on your resume it helps you. People who are hiring, they like to see that you are not lazy – that you like working.”