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Organizations hoping for financial, volunteer support
KAITLYNN NORDAL SPECIAL TO SALTWIRE NETWORK
Giving organizations are hoping people across Atlantic Canada will open their hearts — and their wallets — to spread the gift of generosity this year. Giving Tuesday will be marked on Nov. 30 this year. Celebrated on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it's considered the opening day of the giving season, a way to encourage people to do good and pay it forward during the Christmas season. Touted as a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world,” giving organizations depend on the day to raise funds and support. For those still deciding where they want to help for Giving Tuesday, one idea may be Choices For Youth in St. John’s. The organization supports young people and young families aged 16 to 29 in a variety of areas, primarily with housing, education, employment, and health, explains Angela Picco, Choices For Youth’s manager of fund development and communication. “Those are the four pillars of our work. If you think about anyone’s life, if there is a breakdown in any of those four areas, then things can go south pretty quickly, so we make sure young people have supports in all of those areas,” said Picco. Choices for Youth, which has been around for over 30 years, supports over 1,000 young people in the community every year. The organization has opted not to do anything extravagant for Giving Tuesday this year as a way to keep everyone safe due to COVID-19. Instead, Choices For Youth will be sharing an e-blast with supporters, posting lots of social media, release its annual report, and share stories of what it is doing in the community and the impact it's having. “For us, Giving Tuesday is primarily about sharing information about our work and impact in the community and encouraging folks to give,” said Picco. “We are a professional services agency, so while we love having volunteers, a lot of the young people who might need some dedicated support or are in crisis having volunteers in those moments isn't the best way to support them. It might be supporting young people with emergency housing or connecting them with a medical team.” For this reason, Choices For Youth choose to mark Giving Tuesday by focusing on awareness. “So on Giving Tuesday, for us, it’s about making sure that people know about Choices For Youth and are either feeling inspired to give or, if they are a young person who needs help, then they know where they can get it,” said Picco. GIFT OF TIME If you can’t financially donate this season, consider finding a giving organization in your community where you can share your time and skills instead. At Choices For Youth, the most common program for volunteers to help out with is the Momma Moments program. “The nature of the Momma Moment programming allows for more long-term volunteer opportunities than some of our other programming. The size of the groups requires many hands to help execute the weekly group programming for each of the four groups that we operate,” said Picco. Through the Momma Moments program, volunteers will help with things such as meal preparation and childminding so that staff can facilitate the peer-topeer support model of Momma Moments. Susan Gallant has been volunteering with this program for the last two years after seeing an advertisement on Facebook. Gallant was looking for volunteer opportunities because her daughters are now older and don’t need the same amount of minding. “They are getting more independent. They don’t need me as much anymore. I found myself with some more time on my hands so I was looking to volunteer opportunities.” As a single mom of daughters who are now 19 and 15, she was in a unique position to understand what some of the women in the program are going through. “I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to give back because of my lived experience as a single mom,” said Gallant. “I know how important programs like that can be and how lifechanging it can be for the moms who are in the program.” The specific program she volunteers with meets on Saturday afternoons for two hours. She minds the children while the mothers stay upstairs, have lunch, and get the peer support they need. “Usually, I go home with paint under my fingernails and a full heart because my girls are 15 and 19 now, so we don’t do those things anymore. So it’s fun to spend time with these kids,” said Gallant. As a parent, Gallant recognizes the unique help this program offers. “It is such an amazing program. Young mothers face so many obstacles, whether they are a single parent or married. Social isolation is a big issue when you have young children because you are home all the time. You don’t get the opportunity to go out as much and be around your peers like you used to.” This volunteering opportunity is a choice Gallant would not change for all the world. “In terms of volunteering in general, I have found it to be fulfilling in ways I had never imagined. For this particular program, being a single parent, myself for the last 10 years has given me perspective on the challenges that people can face,” said Gallant. For her, helping in her community warms her heart. “It’s selfish selflessness — you do it because you want to help other people, but at the same time, you feel this sense of fulfillment,” she says. “And, at the end of the day, you made a difference in someone’s life. There’s nothing that can compare to that.” HOW TO HELP Most helping organizations are appreciative of any donations, especially on Giving Tuesday. If you are looking for ideas for places to donate in your community, visit https://givingtuesday.ca, which lists a number of options. There are 43 organizations listed for Prince Edward Island, 64 in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 265 in Nova Scotia, which can be viewed on a map to find one closest to your area. If you’re unable to help financially, you can also help by sharing social media posts by organizations about their work or consider giving the gift of time and volunteer.