This week is Canada’s National Volunteer week – the perfect time to say thank you to the volunteers whose dedication and generosity make our work possible. Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of one of the more than 5,000 United Way volunteers we are so grateful for. We couldn’t do it without you.
Volunteer menders Leslie and Susan repair hundreds of donated coats and snow pants every year – helping as many kids as possible to keep warm through the Koats for Kids program.
How did you become a volunteer with Koats for Kids and United Way?
Leslie: Well, I heard on the radio a couple of years ago that they were looking for volunteers to sort coats at Koats for Kids, and I thought “I can do that, I can sort coats.” When I got there, they told me that they also needed mending to be done on the coats that are donated, and I thought, “I could do that too!”
What do you do as a volunteer?
Leslie: Well I’m a specialist in mending now! I come in once a week, drop off bags of mended stuff, and pick up another one. I probably mend about 40 coats, pants, etc every week.
Some donated pieces that come in are not-so-gently used – the knees of snowpants need a lot of patches. In its own peculiar way it’s creative! You think, how can I make this work – I do a lot of recycling. I can take zippers off of jackets that are no good, and take patches out of things that are no good, and make other pieces of clothing whole. Nothing gets wasted, everything that comes in gets used somehow. It’s amazing.
Why is volunteering important to you?
Leslie: I’d say I learned it from my family. My dad was very socially conscious, and I think you pick that up. You contribute. Maybe it’s partly from being a nurse – I saw that as a calling, and now that I’ve retired I thought, I can still help in some ways. I’ve volunteered at a nursing home before, and with single mothers, and all kinds of places. Here, it’s doing something for children – there are kids that wouldn’t be able to go out in the winter unless they had clothing from here.
As you get older – I’m almost 79 – there are limited things you can do. So to me, if you can contribute you do, because there comes a time when you can’t. So hopefully there’s a brownie point book somewhere that says “She kept going as long as she could!”
Whether they’re working with our agency partners, reaching out to donors, running special events, helping to build understanding about important issues in our community, or ensuring United Way itself is an effective and efficient organization … at the end of the day, they make it possible for people all over this city to build better lives for themselves and their families.