Alanna LaHay is dedicated to helping people find valuable volunteer experiences.
Originally from Victoria Harbour in the Midland area around Georgian Bay, LaHay initially came north to complete her post-secondary education. She is a recent graduate of Cambrian College’s physical fitness management program.
LaHay is an active community volunteer herself. She has helped co-ordinate the Northern Lights Basketball Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Club run in partnership with Independent Living Sudbury-Manitoulin. She also volunteers as a basketball coach at École secondaire Macdonald-Cartier. And, LaHay serves on the board of SportLink, an organization dedicated to developing Greater Sudbury’s sporting community.
Drawn to the mandate of Volunteer Sudbury / Bénévolat Sudbury, LaHay launched her career with the organization in 2018.
“Losing my dad to suicide four years ago influenced my desire to embark on a career that helps people feel more connected to community,” said LaHay. “For me, Volunteer Sudbury / Bénévolat Sudbury, and especially their Valuable Volunteer Program, is a perfect fit with my own purpose in life.”
As executive director, the primary role of this young professional is twofold: 1.) To match residents of Greater Sudbury with various organizations seeking volunteers to meet the needs of our community, and; 2.) To build new partnerships and develop more programs that will increase the number of fulfilling ways in which volunteers can serve the community.
Volunteer Sudbury / Bénévolat Sudbury, a registered charity, has been in existence since 2005. Operated by a board of seven directors, the organization is a unique resource centre that promotes and advocates volunteerism, connecting community groups with people who want meaningful opportunities.
“We currently have a membership base of over 60 local organizations and businesses, almost double what we had just a couple of years ago. The number of citizens who have registered for volunteer opportunities has also risen significantly. I think people recognize more and more how important it is to give back to community, and how intrinsically rewarding it is to help others.”
The organization’s Valuable Volunteer Program (VVP), funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, reaches out to individuals who feel socially isolated, have mental illness and/or a disability and helps them find fulfilling volunteer opportunities. The initiative was launched in 2018. It provides enhanced support for those who identify with barriers such as mental illness, disability or social isolation. In the last two years, VVP has helped more than 250 citizens, and LaHay expects that number to exceed 425 by the end of 2020.
“One of our first clients in the program was a quiet teenager born with Cystic Fibrosis and who also suffered social anxiety. He approached us for a connection to achieve his high-school volunteer credit requirement. Not only was he excited to become involved with an organization in sync with his passion for gardening, but this inspiring young man has gone above and beyond to help with events like annual BBQ fundraisers.”
Volunteer Sudbury / Bénévolat Sudbury is very involved with area secondary schools, helping to connect students with local organizations. LaHay gives presentations and helps host an information booth during school lunch periods to build awareness about the organization’s programs and online registry.
“Young people do want to lend a hand, and not purely to accumulate credits. They discover that volunteering is an enjoyable and gratifying experience. And, the bonus is they often benefit from developing new skills relevant to their future career goals.”
Once someone is matched and connects with an organization, Volunteer Sudbury / Bénévolat Sudbury remains available to support that connection.
“The volunteer might want to pursue additional opportunities or continue long-term with the same organization. If they want to try something new, we’re always there as a resource and to help facilitate the transition.”
LaHay emphasizes that seasoned volunteers inspire the next generation of volunteers.
“We’re actively researching the implementation of an intergenerational volunteer program because connecting seniors with the younger generation is mutually beneficial. The seasoned volunteer will mentor the young person, and the less-experienced volunteer will inspire and motivate the more-experienced person.”
Alanna LaHay’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom
The impact that volunteers have on others is irreplaceable; look for moments that I call ‘volunesia’. This is the moment that you forget that the action of volunteering is changing the lives of others, because it has changed you.
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and occasional contributor to Sudbury.com.