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!
Terumi Kuwada volunteered as an Agency Liaison Volunteer – helping guide the direction and impact of United Way agency partners – for about 13 years, which is the same length of time Bill Norrie was mayor of Winnipeg.
The comparison is a fitting one. Bill Norrie was the person who nominated Terumi to join United Way’s Board of Trustees in 2002, sparking her long career as a United Way volunteer.
“He was just such a community leader and a mayor who got engaged with everybody… just such a gentle, caring, and respectful individual,” says Terumi of the late mayor, who twice volunteered as a United Way Campaign Chair.
Terumi’s volunteer career with United Way ended joyfully last week. She has decided to spend more time with her family and husband, who himself just retired. Over the last 25 years Terumi estimates she has served voluntarily for as many as eight not-for-profits at any given time.
“United Way was the longest, second being the Manitoba Japanese-Canadian Citizens Association (now the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba).”
Terumi was on United Way’s board for three years, and did a similar stint volunteering on the Community Investment Committee.
Her career in social work gave her a strong foundation for success as an Agency Liaison Volunteer (ALV), where she helped United Way agency partners operate effectively to serve Winnipeggers.
“As an ALV we act as collaborators with the agencies to say, ‘How can we best make a difference in our community, together?’”
The relationships she built with people working on the front-lines of United Way agencies are the most treasured memories she will carry with her, Terumi said.
“As a volunteer I’ve had so many gifts from people who have opened up their thoughts and feelings about their work and their passion about their work…sharing why they do what they do, and you realize, my goodness, these are people of such heart and soul…this city is really fortunate to have these people.”
Terumi said she will miss being an ALV for United Way. It kept her, “connected to people who were doing amazing work for the community.”
The act of volunteering is full of rewards for the giver, she said, and for our shared society.
“I think we all need to give. We need to give back. We’re so fortunate in Canada to have the kind of life that we have, and I see volunteering as a way to give back to a society that we’re very fortunate to belong to.”