Already a kitchen volunteer at the Ottawa Mission, Rachel Auclair wondered what more she could do to help.
Then the 23-year-old library and information technology student at Algonquin College looked at the bookshelves.
“I looked at the bookshelves here and saw that most of the books on the shelves were Harlequin romances,” she said. “I knew that they weren’t books that guys would be interested in.”
She decided to set up a new library, first holding a book drive and then organizing books by genre.
It’s volunteers like Auclair who make the shelter work, said Meghan Bartolo, volunteer co-ordinator with the Ottawa Mission.
Organizations across the city are celebrating their volunteers during National Volunteer Week, which runs through May 3.
“They have full lives but still find the time to give back to the community,” said Bartolo. “They’re taking time away from their families to do something for someone they don’t know.”
About one in four people volunteer in Ottawa, said Volunteer Ottawa spokeswoman Jill Woodley.
A recently retired Ottawa resident, Jim Deyell said he likes the social interaction.
“I like talking to the guests and the camaraderie,” he said.
Volunteers help the world to function, said Alex Mac-Kinnon, who has been volunteering for 13 years.
“If you had to pay for everything in this world, nothing would ever get done,” he said.
“It’s a selfless thing to do, but at the same time, it’s selfish,” said Auclair.
“When I come here, I feel happy. I can’t change the world, but I can do my part.”