Photo of two volunteers from behind

Photo Courtesy of Canadian Cancer Society

One-day volunteer opportunities in Toronto and the GTA

Don’t have much time to spare? Spend a few hours volunteering with one of these changemaking organizations

Think you need to make a weeks- or months-long commitment if you want to volunteer? Think again.

Statistics Canada reports that 44% of Ontarians over age 15 volunteer, with individuals averaging 156 hours of donated time each year. But the truth is, not everyone has that many hours to spare. And while many charitable organizations do require a minimum time commitment from volunteers (these people help keep their programs running, after all), some offer opportunities that last just a couple of hours or up to a single day—no strings attached.

You don’t need to do a long stint to reap the benefits of volunteering—like connecting with others, building empathy, sharing skills or gaining a sense of belonging in your community. Any of these six opportunities in Toronto and the GTA will give you that helper’s high—and make a difference for others—in just one day.

Photo of a group of volunteers cheering

Homeless Connect Toronto

Where: Multiple locations across Toronto

Who they help: Homeless Connect Toronto (HCT) helps people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Toronto. It hosts a one-day event in the spring and fall, where volunteers help coordinate access to essential resources and services for clients, including health care, child care, eye assessments, comfort kits, a clothing bank and more.

What you can do: HCT hosts more than 1,000 guests at each event, so they’re always looking for extra hands for a single-day commitment. You can volunteer to be a greeter, help register guests, guide guests from registration to services provided or assist in event set-up and tear-down. Visit their volunteer page to find out how to get involved. (Photo Courtesy of Homeless Connect Toronto)

Canadian Mental Health Association

Where: Multiple locations across the GTA

Who they help: The Canadian Mental Health Association—whose Peel Region, York Region and Toronto branches are United Way partner agencies—provides support, programs and resources to individuals facing mental health issues.

What you can do: There are a variety of opportunities —even one-time gigs—for volunteers over age 18. Availability depends on location, but duties can include fundraising, office support and helping plan specific projects or events. Use the branch locator to find the nearest office and inquire about scheduling.

Photo of a volunteer drawing on a relay for life sign

Canadian Cancer Society

Where: National office: 55 St. Clair Ave. W., Suite 500, Toronto; multiple locations across the GTA

Who they help: The Canadian Cancer Society’s goal is not only to improve and save the lives of people who have cancer but also to eradicate the disease. The organization researches early detection, innovative treatments and prevention strategies. They also provide information on where those living with cancer and their families can find support.

What you can do: Volunteers are welcome to help for a day on fundraising events and campaigns. Individuals can also sell daffodil pins during Daffodil Month in April or assist at community events like Relay for Life. For more details, fill out a volunteer inquiry form or call 416-961-7223. (Photo Courtesy of Canadian Cancer Society)

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada

Where: 25 Spadina Rd., Toronto

Who they help: Children’s Aid Foundation (CAF) of Canada is dedicated to improving the lives of children and teens in the child welfare system. They fundraise and run high-impact programs that support more than 24,000 vulnerable youth every year.

What you can do: Volunteers can help out by prepping, setting up and tearing down equipment at CAF’s special events, including golf tournaments, such as the Joe Carter Classic and the Women’s Golf Classic; the Teddy Bear Affair gala in November; and the Holiday Season Celebration.

Photo of two volunteers holding apples

Black Creek Community Farm

Where: 4929 Jane St., Toronto

Who they help: Black Creek Community Farm (BCCF), a United Way partner agency, provides organic food, training and learning opportunities to its surrounding community. The eight-acre property and urban agriculture centre helps folks of all ages empower themselves by developing food literacy and skills. The farm is also dedicated to increasing access to healthy food and sells organic produce at accessible rates. They host a variety of community food events, too.

What you can do: From spring through fall, volunteers can pitch in for one (or more) days at BCCF, tending gardens, weeding, washing produce or running community activities. There’s also a drop-in Moms’ and Kids’ Gardening Group, where participants can learn how to plant and care for the farm’s vegetable plots and the tea, herb and medicinal garden. Check out the volunteer page to sign up. (Photography by Mildred Agsaoay)

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Where: Multiple locations across Canada

Who they help: Since 1994, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has been working to pick up litter and reduce its harmful effects on ecosystems, wildlife and people. Cleaning up shorelines across Canada helps keep toxins and microplastics from spreading, and prevents animals from ingesting litter they confuse as food. In 2019, volunteers coordinated 2,767 cleanups, collecting 141,902 kilograms of litter along 5,084 kilometres of Canadian shoreline.

What you can do: Cleanups can last a single day or just a few hours. Visit the cleanups page and search for upcoming projects in your community. If you don’t see one listed, check back frequently, as new events are always being added. If you’re over 19, you can even organize your own neighbourhood shoreline cleanup.

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