7 volunteer opportunities for seniors in Toronto and the GTA
Retirees can flex their professional skills in volunteer roles that make local communities stronger
By Colleen Fisher Tully
Not only does volunteering after retirement offer much-cited physical, emotional and brain-health benefits for older Canadians, but the welfare of the entire community also improves. Research from the United Nations’ 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report says communities with a strong volunteer force are more resilient and better prepared for crisis than those without. And since Canadians aged 45 and up represent more than half of Canada’s entire volunteer population, says Marissa Lennox, chief policy officer for the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP), it’s predominantly older citizens who are working to build a safer, better, and more compassionate Canada for all.
However, if the thought of spending hours on end in a dull environment keeps you from seeking out opportunities, you’re not alone. Lennox says a rising trend among retired Canadians is the demand for exciting, higher-octane volunteer experiences. “With parents of the boomer generation, there was often a disconnect between their talents and abilities and the tasks they were given as volunteers,” she explains. “Now, people want [volunteering] to be dynamic and challenging, so they’re looking for ways to leverage their talents and skills that isn’t just unpaid labour.”
To find the ideal match for your personality and unique skill set, Lennox suggests thinking of what you loved most in your professional career and finding ways to continue doing that in your new role as a volunteer. “Don’t be afraid to turn down an opportunity that might not be working for you,” she says. “Sometimes it may take a few tries to find the right fit.”
Below are seven engaging opportunities for retirees and seniors with a broad range of skills and interests.
If you’re politically minded and like to advocate for change, CARP could be a great fit for you. With 26 chapters across Canada (including four across the GTA), the organization focuses on improving health care and financial security for aging Canadians. At the local level, Lennox says volunteers have lobbied municipal governments for things like safer street lighting while also getting involved in city budgeting and planning. “Our chapters are so active and engaged politically at local levels,” she says.
Where: Mississauga, Etobicoke, central Toronto and Scarborough
How to apply: Lennox says all volunteer inquiries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the website’s advocacy page to look for new opportunities.
Since 1962, this community organization has offered a range of services and programs based on Indigenous cultural traditions and teachings. The NCCT, a United Way partner agency, is always looking for vibrant volunteers from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds. Volunteer tasks range from basic administration and organizing special events to more specialized projects, such as income tax clinics. Visit their volunteer page for a list of vacancies or subscribe to their volunteer listing email to get the new roles delivered right to your inbox.
Where: 16 Spadina Rd., Toronto
How to apply: Email your résumé to operations manager Bonnie Matthews at email@example.com and reference the role that interests you.
Sports lovers can combine their passion for the game with a volunteer role at Special Olympics Ontario, an organization that makes sports training and athletic competition accessible to people with intellectual disabilities. Over the last 40 years, Special Olympics Ontario has grown from a local Toronto movement into a province-wide program with more than 18,000 registered athletes. Volunteers form a core part of this organization, helping occasionally with special events or in year-round roles that range from weekly score keeping, team management and coaching to serving in a more pivotal role on the Community Council.
For strong nurturers who love working with kids and can give a one-year commitment, the Nanny Angel Network provides free childcare relief to moms with cancer, mothers in palliative care and families needing additional relief during a bereavement period. The most important part of this in-home position is engaging and supporting children who are coping with their mother’s illness. Before you begin, comprehensive volunteer training covers risk management, children’s grief and how to talk to kids about cancer. If you can’t commit the time or don’t have the required childcare experience, the Nanny Angel Network also recruits volunteers for administrative support, ambassadorships and fundraising.
Where: 1000 Sheppard Ave. W., Suite 100, near Downsview subway station. Childcare volunteers will be matched with families within the Greater Toronto Area.
If art and history are your passions, the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives is home to rotating art exhibitions and installations in addition to unique collections and stories of Peel Region. The recently expanded historic building also hosts community events, kids’ programming and other special activities promoting art and history. Volunteers perform a range of duties, from serving on the advisory board to assisting researchers, helping with collections and welcoming guests at events.
Where: 9 Wellington St. E., Brampton
How to apply: Visit their website to download the application form, then send it along with your résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or drop off your application and résumé to the attention of Denise Marques, development coordinator.
An affiliate of National Girls Inc., this York Region chapter (a United Way partner agency) offers local programs to girls aged six through 18 at the request of school boards, organizations, municipalities and smaller groups. Their facilitated programs cover topics uniquely experienced by girls, including sports confidence, media literacy, STEM success and economic literacy. Girls Inc. York Region actively seeks out volunteers with professional experience for their committees on fund development, special events, nominating and outcome measurement, as well as members for their board of directors.
Offering companionship, emotional support or therapeutic activities to people needing palliative care is one of the more heroic forms of volunteering. Hospice Toronto is always looking for compassionate volunteers for their programs, including in-home hospice, rapid-response care and complementary therapy (practitioners in areas such as reiki, reflexology, music therapy and art therapy). You can also help by offering up skills in office administration and social media management. Volunteers working directly with clients undergo a one-hour interview in as well as specialized training in hospice care.
Where: 55 Eglinton Ave. E., Suite 502, Toronto (main office). Volunteers work in locations across Toronto.
How to apply: You can find a comprehensive list of volunteer programs on their website. Call 416-364-1666 ext. 226 or email Sally Blainey at email@example.com to inquire about specific volunteer interests and to submit an application.
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