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Volunteers are the lifeblood of our community

By Don Fennell

Published 1:21 PDT, Wed May 29, 2019

In 2012, the theme for National Volunteer Week was “Volunteers—Every One Counts.”

A few simple words but with profound meaning.

This past April, at Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives’ annual Volunteers are Stars gala held at the Pacific Gateway Hotel, Ed Gavsie put in best: “Everyone knows volunteers make our community a great place to live, work and play. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t be able to get as much accomplished.”

Gavsie is the engaging president and chief executive officer of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives—a local social services agency since 1972. Perhaps better known by its acronym, RCRG, its core mission to encourage and facilitate local philanthropy—both through volunteerism and monetary donations.

RCRG adopted its current name four years ago, after previously being known as Volunteer Richmond and originally Richmond Connections.

There are two distinct sides to RCRG. Besides being a hub for volunteering and giving, it is also a direct service provider operating several program including a Child Care Resource Referral Centre, a range of seniors community support services and the Richmond Christmas Fund.

In its role as a “capacity-building” organization, Gavsie says RCRG is the volunteer centre for Richmond.

“Our job is to try to increase resources for the non-profit sector, whether those are volunteers or financial resources or donations. We have about 70 mostly not-for-profit organizations we work with constantly to help them in every way we can. We also work with some corporations to help implement volunteer programs with their staff.”

RCRG is equipped with what Gavsie describes as “volunteer match software,” enabling any of its member agencies to list volunteer opportunities. There are upwards of 100 such opportunities listed at any time.

“These range from needing volunteers for events like a parade to a board member to crisis line counsellors,” he says.

Gavsie says the name RCRG is apt, since “We really see our vision as building capacity, and if one more person volunteers that’s great.”

Volunteerism in Richmond is both appreciated and celebrated, and extends to nearly all age groups from youth to seniors.

Whether it’s volunteering for two hours or a thousand hours, every volunteer makes a positive difference.

Following the recent Volunteers are Stars gala, which RCRG brought back in 2018 to say “thank you” to the many local volunteers during National Volunteer Week, Gavsie expressed his delight in seeing the many local youth who are stepping forward.

“The earlier we can instlll these values, and for these youth to pass these values to others, the better,” he said. “When I speak to youth groups or classes on volunteers, I always get people coming up at the end and asking ‘How can I get involved?’”

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