In 2023, we created the Community Wellbeing grant program to celebrate our 75th anniversary and 75 years of community partnership. This program celebrated our province’s exceptional volunteers by giving out awards of $1,000 each, plus another $1,000 to the charity they volunteer with.

We recently sat down with Corinna O’Hanley and Punch Jackson, 2 of the recipients of the Community Wellbeing grant. Here’s what they have to say about the benefits of volunteering.

Corinna has been leading the Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) for the past 7 years. She’s created several programs for families in need to fill gaps within her community.

Punch volunteers with the Men’s Shed Associations. He helps new programs get off the ground and mentors shed leaders. He also publishes a weekly newsletter that promotes the program worldwide.

What’s the main reason you volunteer?

Corinna: The main reason I volunteer is because of my boys. I have 3 sons, and 2 of them are autistic. I wanted to help ensure there is programming and support for all children living in our community.

Why is volunteering important to you?

Punch: There are many worthwhile areas of the community that have had their funding cut or have been negatively impacted by COVID. These areas need an extra pair of hands or heads.

How does volunteering help you connect to your community?

Corinna: Meeting with other volunteers and putting the effort in to build a strong community helps create a deeper appreciation and connection with our city.

How has volunteering changed you as a person?

Punch: Volunteering has made me more confident. It’s made me more aware of issues in the community and brought me face to face with people with true lived experience… it’s opened my eyes to things I had ignored.

What moment or experience in your life has been the motivation behind volunteering?

Corinna: Our city was lacking services and programming for neurodiverse people. I was born and raised here, and I didn’t want my family or any other family to have to consider leaving our city to find services we needed desperately. By volunteering with other like-minded individuals and dedicating our time to our community, we are fixing this problem so hopefully no one has to leave their home to get the supports they need.

Punch: I started volunteering through the YMCA when I was a teenager, doing projects with kids from the inner city in Winnipeg. Being given a chance to start a new program as a teenager in the YMCA made me realize that I could do anything if I applied myself. Since then, I have volunteered in camping and outdoor education, suicide prevention, Imagine Canada Board, the Leisure Information Network and Men’s Sheds. I’ve also volunteered in the Lutheran Church.

What would you say to encourage more people to volunteer?

Corinna: There is no greater gift you can give to your community than your time and effort knowing we are contributing to a successful cause.

Punch: Come on out, have a coffee, meet some new friends, learn some new things and share your skills with the community.

The Community Wellbeing grant program will re-open on September 3, 2024. Stay updated on all the latest announcements.

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