A group meant to encourage volunteering among Airdrie youth is set to celebrate its one-year anniversary Sept. 12.
The Airdrie Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC-Airdrie) was formed in 2019 as a means of engaging Airdrie’s youth in team-based volunteer opportunities that address social and community needs, according to Dorothy May, assistant program director. The corps is an affiliate of Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) – a non-profit network of youth volunteer organizations across the U.S. and Canada.
“There are so many advantages [to volunteering], from a proactive sense, supporting their confidence, self-esteem, getting valuable hands-on skills [and] getting more connected with the community,” May said. “It also ignites that civic pride that encourages them to stay within the community and maybe work and live in the community when they transition to adulthood.”
YVC-Airdrie boasts more than 40 members, May said, all between the ages of 11 and 18. She said the corps, which is also attached to Volunteer Airdrie Society, is free to join and does not have a minimum time commitment.
Each month, May said she sends out a calendar of volunteer projects and events that youth can choose to participate in.
“They sign up for the ones they’re interested in, that fit with their family’s schedule, and can decline the other ones,” she said. “We try to use incentives to encourage them to continue to be involved. One of our milestones is 30 hours, and [when they reach it] they’ll earn some swag, like a YVC hoodie.”
Among YVC-Airdrie's members is Maddie Quirk, an 11-year-old who attends Meadowbrook Middle School. The Grade 7 student said she enjoys the opportunity to help people provided by the corps, as well as its familial atmosphere.
“I really like the leaders and the people we partner up with,” she said. “Everyone is super nice – especially the other kids doing it. We’re all friends and work together as a team really well.”
YVC-Airdrie has been involved with many community initiatives throughout the last year, May said, including the 2020 Alberta Winter Games in February and the Airdrie Festival of Lights (AFOL) in December 2019. During the festival, she said, members decorated mugs, filled them with treats and distributed them to attendees.
“We randomly ‘mugged’ people at AFOL, so it was kind of a fun play on words to help change the perception of youth in our community,” she said.
A local agency the corps has worked with regularly has been Bethany Care Society. According to May, YVC-Airdrie members volunteered at Bethany Airdrie’s annual Christmas Bazaar in 2019. They also sent decorated "positivity pots" with flowers to residents of the senior care facility during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
YVC-Airdrie will celebrate the club’s anniversary by harvesting produce from The Garden of Hope – a community garden north of Crossfield, which members of the corps have maintained throughout the summer. According to May, the celebration will also include games, lunch and recognition of some members who have reached certain volunteer-hour milestones.
As the corps approaches its second year, May said the goal is to double its membership and create a new Youth Advisory Board, whose members will help decide which volunteer initiatives YVC-Airdrie will participate in.
“Now that we have a little more stability and foundation with our program in Airdrie, the youth can have even more of a voice as far as project planning, fundraising and advocating for what the youth would enjoy,” she said.
YVC’s annual summit in October is also coming up, May said, which will be held virtually this year due to the pandemic.
To keep all the affiliates engaged as part of the international summit, May said YVC is organizing a “CANstruction” competition where members of YVC-Airdrie will solicit canned food donations and use them to build a structure. Photos of the structure will be sent to YVC, who will judge the submission against other affiliates from across North America.
“We have the potential to win $1,000, and I think it’s a great way to engage youth in a safe way and still help the community through a hands-on project,” May said.
The structure YVC-Airdrie builds will be displayed at Airdrie's Superstore Sept. 26, she added, and will remain there for a week before the canned foods are donated to Airdrie Food Bank.