We know our volunteers are hardworking, dedicated, and committed to making their communities healthy places to live. By sharing their stories, we show what we already know: that our volunteers are shaping lives through their positive attitude, their leadership, and their willingness to lend a hand. Way to go!
YMCA Volunteers Share Their Stories
Do you know someone who has made an impact as a YMCA volunteer?
Did you volunteer at the YMCA and want to share your story?
We want to hear about it! Email Volunteering@ymcagta.org
When I retired in late 2015, I was looking for ways to give back to society. At that time, my daughter worked at the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s head office in the accounting department, and mentioned they were always looking for new volunteers. I was aware of how valuable the YMCA has been over the years, helping communities and people in need. As it turns out, YMCA Cedar Glen outdoor centre is quite close to where I live, so I contacted them and met with their team. I was quite impressed with the facility and the friendliness of the staff, so I decided to join as a volunteer. That was over six years ago and I am still actively involved. I guess you might wonder why? It is because I have learned much, much more about all the good things Cedar Glen, and the YMCA in general, has to offer. And it is an organization that, as they say, ‘walks the talk’ when it comes to honouring its pledge to respect diversity and the inclusion of everyone in society; much-needed in today’s increasingly divided world. I have learned a lot while volunteering at the Y, especially gaining a much deeper understanding of the difficulties many families and the younger generation are experiencing today, making ends meet; in the process, making me better appreciate just how lucky I am in many ways. It has also underscored in my mind the benefits of teamwork, as exemplified by the many fine people I have met at the Y since joining as a volunteer.
During National Volunteer Week, we celebrate Noriko who volunteers as a Family Meal Children’s Assistant with Eat, Play, Love – an evening meal program supported by our Family Support Programs and our community partners. Learn about Noriko below. “I chose YMCA because I was familiar with it. I'm an immigrant and I knew the YMCA in my original country (Japan), and after my son was born, I took him to drop-in programs. People at the YMCA are always so nice to everyone, so I have only good impressions about the YMCA. I like volunteering at the YMCA because my team members treat me as a part of the team. I feel very comfortable working with them. I also feel very happy to get involved with the community. Especially during the Covid 19 lockdowns, I participated in online programs as a volunteer. That helped me to not feel as isolated from society, which means a lot to me. I’m studying at a college to become a RECE. I'm learning many things from my volunteer experiences. My volunteer coordinator always supports me and gives me useful resources. People that I met through volunteering have motivated me to study hard and achieve my goals.” - Noriko
Olivia started volunteering as a Group Mentor with the Black Achievers Program (BAP) which launched in September 2021. We thank Oliva for sharing her expertise, inspiration and for shaping future leaders of tomorrow. Learn more about Olivia below. Throughout my educational and professional journey, I have mostly worked with young people. So, when I seen the social media ad for the Black Achievers program, I said "Of course! Why not?" As an advocate for race equity, education empowerment, and youth development, I seen the BAP as the perfect opportunity to pour back into my community. I understand that I am both an agent of social control and social change. In addition to my job, I wanted to sow into the lives of young Black students so they can help their families, contribute to society and be leaders in their communities. What I love most about volunteering at the YMCA is building positive, healthy and long-lasting relationships with the participants. Many times, I see a younger version of myself in the youth and I just marvel. From workshops to in-depth conversations, I see their intelligence, creativity, authenticity, and gifts. It's truly a privilege to sit front row and witness how awesome our young people are. Volunteering at the YMCA has taught me that we are all students of life and we can learn from anyone no matter their age. Although I am a mentor for the Black Achievers program, the students have taught me a lot about morals, values, healthy boundaries, and more. The students have taught me that as humans, we know the price of everything but the value of nothing. The teaching and learning pieces from our youth are so invaluable. After each session, you begin to look at life in retrospect to see how you can be a better person, friend, relative, coworker, and community member. Furthermore, I encourage everyone to get involved in volunteering someway or somehow. I promise that you will walk away with so many gems.
Chester has supported the YMCA since 2015 and has made an impact on many of our programs at Central YMCA as a member of the Health and Fitness Volunteer Leadership Council, Classroom Assistant and a Mentor for newcomers. This week we celebrate and thank Chester for his leadership and dedication to our clients. Learn more about Chester below. “I was a member of YMCA for its fitness programs, but when I retired, I found how much more it did for the community. I had the opportunity to talk with the capable and dedicated people at the YMCA Newcomer Centre, and the YMCA Academy, and those discussions led to jointly developing activities that contributed to their goals. So in effect, with guidance and support, I was able to create my own roles. The Y's mandate is to create new and better ways to help its community, instilling a mindset in the staff and volunteers that encourages improvement. This empowers volunteers to use their skills and judgment in such improvement. The staff, volunteers, and members have become a new and vital community in my retirement. What I've learned has expanded (and continues to expand) my skills and knowledge in ways that I couldn't have planned or anticipated. So, a post-retirement sense of purpose, growth and community. Thank you YMCA!” – Chester
Lara is one of our Youth Mentors who support Next Stop Canada Youth (NSCY), an online platform aimed at welcoming pre-arrival immigrants and helping them transition into their new life in Canada. We thank Lara for the creativity, ideas, leadership and enthusiasm she has demonstrated as a part of the NSC team. Learn more about Lara below: “Although I was very interested in being part of the Next Stop Canada team, it was not the sole reason why I chose to volunteer at the YMCA. The Next Stop Canada team stood out to me, each member having a unique personality and background. I was stunned that they were keen on listening to my ideas, even though I was a high school student with no past work experience. I was thrilled at the thought of being involved in this welcoming community, and the encouragement they showed towards helping volunteers to develop and succeed. I am very grateful for all the resources and opportunities for growth at the YMCA. Volunteers can attend free trainings on miscellaneous topics such as accessibility, equality, public speaking, and mental health. The YMCA has enabled me to take on leadership roles whereby I can manage projects while learning new skills. It's a unique combination of creativity and critical thinking. I have learned valuable leadership skills that I would not have otherwise, such as project management and articulating ideas. Through the NSCY program, I am able to connect with other mentors who have immigrated to Canada and with people who share similar experiences as me. That, and being able to guide mentees with my honest advice and knowledge, is both comforting and rewarding. Moreover, running ideas by the team and working together to improve them has brought new perspectives into my life, helping me learn new skills and grow as an individual. The support I have encountered as a volunteer has motivated me to surpass my limits and become who I am today. The guidance, advice, as well as heartful encouragement from my team, has shown me that a sense of community is just as important as academic performance and how many achievements one has—if not more.” – Lara