The summer of giving back!

As we enjoy the peak of summer, there’s a lot to be grateful for and there’s no better way to show thankfulness than volunteering. We’ve crossed many milestones in the past few month: acing finals, wrapping up another academic year, many of us even perhaps mid-way through our co-ops and approaching graduation or a new academic year. As we bask in the warmth and sunshine of summer, our team at IGNITE couldn’t help but feel blessed to be in a position where we could give back to the community and say thank you.

If you feel the same, this article’s for you! We asked around the office to look for the most popular spots to volunteer at this summer. And what’s better, based on the input of our awesome staff, these volunteer opportunities became the beginnings of many fruitful networking events and true friendships. Some of my closest friends were people I chatted away with while picking trash off Lakeshore, so if you are looking to expand your circle, this one’s for you!

Actress Jennifer Lawrence saying "I volunteer as tribute" in the movie Hunger Games.

Why volunteer?

In addition to making excellent friendships and a positive impact on your community, you’re also building a treasure trove of skills that employers drool over. Think teamwork, communication, leadership—yep, all the good stuff. In this job market, you can bet every one of those count! Plus, it’s a killer way to explore different industries, test-drive career paths, and beef up your resume with real-world experience. Bonus? It’s a good way to plug gaps in your resume while you were potentially looking for a job, to ensure your learning and development is seamless to future employers.

As we dive into each of these opportunities, ensure you apply for them as early as possible to secure the one that’s the best fit for you! These programs are sometimes filled quickly, so submitting your interest early is a good way to go!

City of Toronto

What better way to give back than to your own local community—your friends and neighbours! There are many opportunities to get involved with the City of Toronto, there’s always something happening throughout the year. They also offer a diverse range of volunteering options that put to use many different skill sets and aptitudes.

On their website, you can see a variety of postings, ranging from short-term volunteering opportunities to more permanent options. Do you love fostering dogs and adorable fluffy kittens while the city looks for a forever home for them? Check out their animal fostering program! Or, are you more passionate about elevating seniors’ lives by providing them with engaging conversation, assistance and enrichment? Then the city’s long-term care home program is more up your alley!

Red Cross Canada

Looking for a way to make a real difference right here in Toronto? Look no further than Red Cross Canada! They’re all about lending a hand to those who need it most, and lucky for you, there are plenty of ways to get involved. Depending on what you have, there’s a slew of options!

If you have a driver’s license and access to a car, you can dive straight into being a Meals on Wheels driver! The Meals on Wheels program mitigates the challenges of food security and social isolation in the community and requires volunteers to assist with the delivery of meals to community members.

If that’s not possible, you can even consider being a Friendly Visiting Volunteer, providing regular visits to assigned older adult clients, offering companionship, conversation & engagement.

Daily Bread Food Bank

Looking to roll up your sleeves and tackle hunger right here in our city? Look no further than Daily Bread Food Bank! They’re the heart and soul of Toronto’s fight against hunger, and they’ve got loads of ways for you to join the cause. With rising grocery costs and lower access to affordable and nutritious meals, many people are struggling. So if making food accessible to those who require it is fulfilling to you, this opportunity is the perfect one for you!

As a volunteer, you could be sorting food donations, packing hampers, helping prepare soups and casseroles for meal programs across the city. If you’re more comfortable working on administrative tasks, you could help out administrative staff by volunteering at their Welcome Centre, or help their fundraising, finance, and other departments.

Royal Ontario Museum

This is perhaps my favourite spot in Toronto, so ignore my totally biased opinion that this is a must-do for any culture buff! Are you interested in art, culture, and history? Some exquisite paintings, perhaps? Or how about miniature ship models, intricately carved from ivory and bones, bearing dark and sombre histories? If that gets you excited, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is calling your name!

The ROM is a hub for volunteers who want to be part of something truly special; whether they’re history buffs, art aficionados, or just passionate about education. Picture yourself leading engaging tours, assisting with hands-on activities for kids, or even helping out behind the scenes with the management of various artefacts. Plus, as a ROM volunteer, you’ll get to soak up knowledge from experts in the field and be part of a vibrant community dedicated to preserving and sharing our rich cultural heritage.

Toronto Wildlife Centre

Are you an animal lover with a passion to care for everything that’s cuddly, furry, scaled, fierce or cute? The Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) is where it’s at! The TWC rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals in need. From feeding baby squirrels to caring for injured birds of prey, there’s a wild world of volunteering opportunities at the TWC.

In the more animal-facing roles, you can help follow diet charts and prepare daily meals for the animals, clean cages and perform wellness checks on these animals. If you love animals but are more comfortable with a more arms-length assistance, you can consider roles like wildlife videographers, educational assistances or even volunteer to pick up groceries! It’s truly the best way to help every living being, big or small. Note that while some positions may require you to have certain vaccinations or prior training. So, be sure to check out all requirements before applying.

Let’s get going!

Actress Jennifer Lopez saying "I love that, sign me up!"

Ultimately, in a bustling city like Toronto, there’s a whole world of opportunities waiting for you to lend a hand and make a difference. Whether you’re passionate about helping people, animals, or preserving our cultural heritage, moreover, rest assured there’s a volunteering gig just right for you. Don’t wait! Take the leap, step out of your comfort zone, and start your journey of giving back today.

Remember, even the smallest acts of kindness can ripple out and create a wave of positivity. (yes, as you can see, I believe in positive vibes and karma and the whole shebang!)

So, whether you’re spending a few hours a week or diving headfirst into a long-term commitment, everyone you help truly appreciates and values your efforts. Volunteering isn’t just about what you can do for others; it’s also about the joy and fulfillment you’ll find along the way. So, go on—let’s make our city a brighter, kinder place, one volunteer at a time!

Feature photo by The Tampa Bay Estuary Program on Unsplash

Excited to spend time outdoors and explore more of Toronto this summer? Check out our top suggestions for authentic Toronto restaurants that will blow your mind!

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