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How Alana found balance and a sense of community at the Y

12 April 2019 - by Admas Mekuria
Alana Rutherford has been a long-time participant in our Sweat For Good Challenge (formerly Megathon), either as a fundraiser, donor, or cheerleader for champs like Gino, who climbs the Central Y’s stairs hundreds of times to raise money so our programs stay accessible. But her support for our charity extends far beyond this fundraiser: Alana’s been a volunteer at the Central YMCA for over 6 years, having started in laundry services, then growing to assist in administration, and now serving as a member of our Volunteer Leadership Counsel. I sat down with Alana to hear what drives her to give back—and why she chose the YMCA. Here’s what she told me:

I moved to Toronto from a small town in western Manitoba for a job. I landed an exciting and challenging career, but it’s very deadline-driven work, and I find myself sitting at a computer on the phone all day. As time went by, I found myself needing more than just work in my life. I needed a balance. I needed a place where I could show up and have that feeling of excitement and social connection that I don’t always get at work. I believed that volunteering could provide that sense of balance and community, so I joined the Central YMCA. I knew volunteers sometimes float around a bit until they find the charities and roles that fit best. But that wasn’t the case for me at the Y. I felt the fit right away. I felt excited to be participating in something valuable.

I started helping out Doris with laundry services, and if you know Doris at all, you know she makes you feel like you aren’t just coming in and volunteering, but that you are part of the family. I began with two hours on Saturday mornings and now I volunteer Sunday mornings too. I always walk out with a smile on my face, consistently having such a positive experience. It absolutely gave me that balance and sense of community that I needed. Last year, I even joined the Volunteer Leadership Counsel at the Central Y. My role is being a voice for volunteers, and expressing what I see they need, because I get to work with and listen to them all the time.

My biggest inspiration to join the Sweat For Good Challenge is Gino. He’s been participating in this event and raising funds for so many years. The fact that he can climb up all those stairs and that he does it while staying positive and enthusiastic with the people around him is so inspiring to see. And the entire Y has his back: over 50 people join him for his last couple flights! It’s so fun and easy to join fundraising events like this at the Y, because your participation is so deeply appreciated and supported. That’s why I joined the Sweat Angels years ago. This group of ladies raises thousands of dollars for the Sweat For Good Challenge every year—money that helps make sure everyone, no matter their income, can enjoy the Y just like I do. I feel so good knowing that I’ve contributed to what the Y does.

I see the impact here at the Central Y every day: so many people are helped through programs like the Newcomer centre and the YMCA Academy. The Y is definitely a great gym—but it’s also a whole lot more for the people in my community.

Hear from our other volunteers to celebrate their passion and commitment for National Volunteer Week.


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