When Ruth MacKenzie was in elementary school in Toronto during the late 1960s, she remembers taking part in a classroom fundraising event to help end the seal hunt. In her 20s, she would go on to volunteer at the Humane Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society and a kids’ help phone line.
Today MacKenzie is the president and CEO of Ottawa-based Volunteer Canada, the national organization for volunteerism. She believes volunteering is not just something people do but also who they are as compassionate and caring citizens who are driven to devote themselves to meaningful causes in their communities.
MacKenzie is happy to shine the spotlight on the importance of volunteering during the 68th National Volunteer Week taking place from April 10 to 16. This year’s theme is “Volunteers: Passion. Action. Impact”—three natural steps in the evolution of the volunteer experience.
“Our main goal during National Volunteer Week is to thank the 12.5 million volunteers in Canada who dedicate their time and energy every year to various causes,” says MacKenzie. “Many of these volunteers are retired, and they’ll one day be ‘retiring’ from their volunteer ‘careers,’ so we’d also like to encourage younger people to start contributing to their communities.”
MacKenzie wants to spread the word that everybody can be a volunteer, whether that means canvassing for the Cancer Society, cutting an elderly neighbour’s grass or helping organize an event like a music festival or a sports tournament.
National Volunteer Week is the ideal time to recognize our country’s volunteers who give more than two billion hours of their time, energy and skills in schools, hospitals, animal shelters, sports teams, disaster relief—the list of recipients who benefit from their services is almost endless.
So why do so many Canadians volunteer? “We’re a compassionate nation,” says MacKenzie. “Canadians feel they have the right and responsibility to contribute to improving the quality of their communities.”