City’s Call for Volunteers

pensEach year, the City puts out a call for volunteers for community members to step up and sit on various committees and task forces. I currently sit on one—the Public Engagement Task Force—but in the past have sat on a variety of different committees, some monthly for two or three hours, some only met once a quarter, and some were convened a single time in a year. I found the work interesting and felt it gave me a better understanding of how City Hall worked. It also gave me an idea of some of the constraints that the City faces, such as legislative requirements or budget cycles. I joined because I’m a bit of a keener, but also because a friend prompted me to consider getting involved.

“Committee volunteers play a vital role in shaping New Westminster,” said Mayor Jonathan Coté. “Through their involvement in city committees, members have the opportunity to get to the heart of issues that impact our community and can see their efforts playing out everywhere they look. I encourage everyone interested to apply for a committee and get involved in shaping the future of our city.”

So, if our Mayor’s call for volunteers isn’t enough, here is me also prompting you. If you’ve been considering contributing to the place you live in a bigger way, as a way to give you meaningful connections to your community, this is one great way.

To apply for a committee, check out the list of volunteer opportunities and see which best fits you. Fill out the online application. You cannot be employed by the City of New Westminster, and you must be a resident. Some of the terms are one year and some are two and they ask that you be able to serve the full term. In general, most committees do not meet in July, August, or December. These are volunteer positions, so you don’t get paid, but you do get invited to a fancy pants dinner at the end of the year as thanks.

I have found that the connection I have to the City has become deeper and richer as a result of being involved in the committees I have sat on, and it has exposed me to a number of groups or programs I didn’t know about.

You Wear It Well

Over the years, the volunteers behind “You Wear it Well” have helped hundreds of New Westminster (and more recently, some Burnaby) high school grads look their best on grad night. This 100% volunteer run organization accepts donations of grad clothing and accessories, and outfits grads at no cost. Students interested in being considered contact their school counsellors who direct them to You Wear It Well. Their service is entirely confidential; they do not share any information about any of the students who have been outfitted (except for a few students who are “media ambassadors” and have given express consent for photos to be shared on the group’s Facebook page.)

But, like many organizations, the time has come for the committee to be renewed. The current volunteers are seeking a new committee to take over the organization.

From a post on their Facebook page (and hat tip to Shop New West for alerting me to this):

You Wear it Well…Just for Grads has been providing graduation attire, free of charge, for New Westminster Graduates for six years. The committee has worked hard to make this annual event successful and has recently expanded to include schools in Burnaby.

However, it is now time to pass the torch to a new group of community–minded individuals. We are looking for a group of people who would be interested in taking over control of this not-for-profit organization.If you are interested in finding out more about this amazing venture, we would love to talk to you. We are willing to share all our information about running the organization, and will donate all our inventory to anyone that is willing to take on this project.

We have found our experience with You Wear it Well…Just for Grads to be truly rewarding, and have witnessed first-hand the transformation of many young peoples’ lives. We are certain that the new Committee will find this experience equally as fulfilling.For more information, please contact the You Wear it Well…Just for Grads Committee at

At the Farmers Market, we are not strangers but neighbours

Volunteering in New Westminster connects you to the community like nothing else. There’s no shortage of causes to choose from: New West Environmental PartnersCommunity GardensHyackFrasersidePurpose SocietyDowntown BIAFamily Place, local resident’s associations, neighborhood festival committees, advisory boards for the city, Arts Council … the list goes on. My organization of choice is the Royal City Farmers Market.

Will Tomkinson, taking a break while volunteering at the 2009 summer market. Photo: Graham Ballantyne
Will, taking a break while volunteering at the 2009 summer market. Photo: Graham Ballantyne

The Royal City Farmers Market began operations in the spring of 2008. Each Thursday afternoon, the 4th street parking lot near Tipperary Park became a village square, busy with the sounds of commerce and the happy buzz of community. The market not only provided access to healthy, local food and supported local producers and business, but it was also a place to build bonds across neighborhoods and connect the folk of New West with events and groups active throughout the city. I was hooked, and hungry to be involved.

I put my name forward as a volunteer. I began by showing up early and staying late at the market, assisting with setup and teardown of the market booths. Soon I was invited on to the Board of Directors and at the Society AGM, I was confirmed as Vice President. I have loved every minute of it and I am sure this feeling is echoed by the volunteers on community and charitable boards throughout New Westminster:

On Saturday, April 17th, it is RCFM’s last market of the winter season. This was the first year RCFM hosted a monthly Winter Market, and by any measure it was a success. Once a month for the last five months, RCFM has returned to the Holy Trinity Cathedral parish hall and stocked it full of local vendors, food producers and community organizations. Initially, there was some worry if the good folks of the Royal City would come out and support the market in the same way they had in the summer season. But each month without fail, the market would be busy with friends and neighbours sharing stories over crepes and hot coffee, enjoying music or children’s activities and taking advantage of the best products the Farmer’s Market scene has to offer. At the market, we are not strangers, but neighbours.

So this is it, city. This Saturday is the big finale and the gang at RCFM have a great day lined up for you. There are more vendors at the April 17th market than at any previous RCFM winter market. This market is the long awaited ‘flower market’ with two fresh flower vendors, ready to help you brighten up your home. For musical entertainment, RCFM is proud to bring back steel guitarist Ross Werlick (one of my favorite market performers). Children will be treated to an eco-friendly activity at “Exploring a Green World” presented by Family Services of Greater Vancouver. As usual, the market remains a great place for families with kids to come and play and interact with their city. Doors open at 10am and the 2009/2010 RCFM winter season is officially closed as of 2:00 pm, when the market day ends. Weekly summer markets resume June 10th at 4pm in Tipperary Park.

RCFM – Winter Market from Royal City Farmers Market on Vimeo.

7th Annual New Westminster Festival of Volunteers

Are you interested in volunteering some of your time to a good cause but aren’t really sure what sort of opportunities there are in New Westminster? 

The 7th Annual New Westminster Festival of Volunteers is happening this Saturday, January 31st, at Royal City Centre. There are a whopping 43 different organizations registered to be a part of what is a fun and interesting event for all members of the family. You can find out about volunteer opportunities right here in our community, as well as find out more about many different local organizations. 

The festival runs from 9:30AM to 3:30PM and as in previous years, attendees can have a special Passport to Volunteering stamped at all the booths for their chance to win a $500 shopping spree at Royal City Centre. 96.9 JACK FM will also be there, broadcasting live. 

Getting out in the community to help your neighbour is sometimes hard, because it’s difficult to determine exactly where to start. The Festival of Volunteers is a great place whatever your interests are to give you the information you need to get going.

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