Edmonton

Alberta volunteering site links spike in traffic to COVID-19 pandemic

Traffic to VolunteerConnector, a website that matches volunteers with open opportunities in Alberta, has increased during the pandemic. Seven thousand people visited the site on the day Dr. Deena Hinshaw mentioned volunteering.

Some organizations seek virtual volunteers to help serve youth and seniors

Edmonton's Food Bank currently needs volunteers to sort donations, repackage items, build hampers and help clients. (Edmonton's Food Bank)

Alberta's chief medical officer of health has encouraged healthy residents to volunteer their time.

"Now, more than ever, kindness matters," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at Tuesday's news conference, adding that guidelines for community organizations and non-profits will be released in the coming days.

It seems Albertans are heeding her advice, or at least thinking about it.

VolunteerConnector, a website that matches volunteers with open opportunities in Alberta, has seen increased traffic during the pandemic. Seven thousand people visited the site on Tuesday.

"That speaks volumes about the people in this province," Katie Dodd, the site's volunteer and community engagement manager, told CBC's Radio Active on Wednesday.

As of Thursday, the site, which is run by the Volunteer Centre of Calgary charity, featured more than 30 opportunities linked to COVID-19.

Time on your hands, want to help out during the pandemic but don't know where to start? Ilya Ushakov, is with the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations. And Katie Dodd is with Volunteer Connector. 6:51

Edmonton's Food Bank seeks volunteers to pack hampers and the Calgary Seniors' Resource Society needs people to drop off deliveries to vulnerable seniors.

Many posted positions can be done remotely, such as translating information for families or helping young people with schoolwork over the phone.

"Shovelling your neighbour's sidewalk is a form of volunteering as well," said Ilya Ushakov, who directs programs and volunteerism for the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

Leaving a positive message on a sidewalk is one way neighbours are trying to cheer each other up during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Gemma Dunn/ECVO)

Many charities and non-profit organizations are in the process of moving their programs online and learning how to screen and train new volunteers remotely.

An important part of that process is mitigating risk, said Graeme Dearden, senior co-ordinator of learning and development at Volunteer Alberta.

"We're seeing a lot of organizations learning from their peers and talking to other members of the non-profit sector to learn about how they're dealing with risk within our organizations," he said.

Dodd said prospective volunteers should also weigh the risks of taking on new roles.

"Make sure that the position can be done while social distancing and staying safe," she said. "And don't do it if it's going to add additional stress to your life."

With files from Adrienne Lamb

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