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Unveiling the Heart of Volunteerism: A Conversation with Amanda Merler

In keeping with last week’s National Volunteer Week, you may have already heard this month’s episode of our podcast, Under One Roof, is all about volunteering at Covenant House Vancouver. In his final episode hosting the show, Neil had the opportunity to speak with our Manager of Volunteer Services, Amanda Merler, without whose inexhaustible efforts our volunteers would be lost.  

Amanda oversees every aspect of volunteering from intake and recruitment through to training and allocating volunteers according to the changing needs our services and supports experience throughout the year.  

If you haven’t tuned in yet hop on over here. We’re sharing below some of the reasons for why her weeks are as relentlessly busy, changing and engaging as they are. Thank you, Amanda, for everything you’re doing for our volunteers! 

Gifts In Kind 
These are all the items that Amanda (and Cory, our Gifts In Kind Coordinator!) receive from organizations and corporations on behalf of Covenant House Vancouver that can be distributed to young people who are in program with us and using our services. Amanda and Cory receive a vast array of things, including anything from clothing to practical items, and volunteers help organize them all to create an inventory of everything and make sure items are ready to go out to youth, as well as ensuring that businesses receive tax receipts where relevant for their donations. 

Joining CHV as a Volunteer 
The process of becoming a volunteer at CHV is very similar to becoming an employee, with a series of chats, interviews and background checks. That’s not just to safeguard the youth we serve and ensure they receive the very best of supports, but also to make sure we really understand who our volunteers are and what opportunities could best fit them. As Amanda says, “we learn about their skills, what their hobbies might be and from there we decide what a good fit might be within our organization.” Amanda added that in the past year, “we’ve hosted 3 New Volunteer Orientation evenings to introduce the new volunteers to Covenant House, one event had over 14 individuals attend!” Amanda’s team even trialed their very first online orientation for folks who couldn’t make it in person. 

Volunteer Roles 
Amanda says food services are, “the greatest position we have a need for,” both in our kitchens and through our CSS (Complex Support Services) department, helping to prep and serve meals. Amanda adds that sorting clothing donations and helping the youth find items they need from our stores are really important areas frequently in need of volunteers. Equally she talks about the recreation side of the work, leading excursions, “such as ice skating at Robson Square rink in the winter,” as well as cycling round Stanley Park or going to the movies. In the past year, over 30 new individuals completed their applications and many have already joined us in some of the following areas:  

  • tutoring 
  • food services 
  • gift in kind support 
  • therapy dog 
  • clothing room assistant 
  • excursion leaders 
  • physiotherapy 
  • and off site supports such as writing thank you’s notes to our donors  

Value of Volunteers 
Of all the tangible types of impact volunteers can have, Amanda underlined how invaluable it is that members in the community show up and give their time up to help serve young people – “I think that shows that there are people in their corner that are there to support them, that are there to look past anything that they have experienced before and just giving them a sense of belonging. They belong here. They belong in this community, they belong in this world, and how can we help support their future?” 

To hear more about volunteering at Covenant House Vancouver, hop on over to our podcast page or whichever platform you use to find the best podcasts and have a listen! 

If you’d like to find out more about volunteering at Covenant House Vancouver, and how you could help us deliver the services and supports that we do to young people in need, visit us here or reach out to us at volunteer@covenanthousebc.org.  

You can also find out more at our website https://www.covenanthousebc.org/take-action/volunteer-with-us/. We look forward to you joining the team!