We’re getting closer to the holidays. Not that we could forget with the constant stream of Christmas music and the annual debate on whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s a time of list-making, too. My kids are making their lists of things they want under the tree. I take it as an opportunity to remind them that, holidays or not, it’s always better to give than to receive. 

The holiday season is also a wonderful time of year to give to others in our community. Many organizations and groups across Waterloo Region do amazing work to help those in need – and they’re always looking for help.

To help you find ways to give back, we created the Communitech Giving Guide. We’ve just updated it to include some new listings, too. There are great ways to give back – whether that means financially, with your time or skills or finding a way for your team to work together to help a local charitable organization.

Volunteering means different things to everyone. For Brett McNeil, Manager, Brand Experience at The Umbrella Project, volunteering is a way to make change happen. McNeil discovered the Kitchener Public Library’s Reading Buddies program when he attended a Communitech Pitch In event. “I really enjoyed the experience of seeing the children light up when they get a word right, or when they finish a book and start another,” McNeil said.

The team at Vidyard has made giving back part of its culture. In 2019, Vidyard employees provided more than 2,000 volunteer hours at charities including the House of Friendship, THEMUSEUM and the Waterloo Region District School Board. 

“We all have a responsibility to contribute to this community; to work together to ensure we help those in need, that we inspire the next generation to go and do great things and that together we build a stronger community together,” said Laura Flatt, Community Engagement Program Manager at Vidyard. Flatt believes that we all have a role and a responsibility to give back and support our community, whether through our time or talents.

Flatt volunteers her time with the House of Friendship serving meals at a local men’s shelter and helping with Christmas food hamper packing and deliveries. She also volunteers as a mentor with LAUNCH Waterloo, helping with their STEAM programming.

“I volunteer with House of Friendship as I want to support the crucial programming and services they provide to this community helping those who are dealing with homelessness or food insecurity,” Flatt said. “I got involved with LAUNCH because of the highly impactful programming they offer to this community ensuring students have the opportunities to be inspired and are encouraged to pursue education and careers,” she added. “Whether you can only give a couple of hours a year, or multiple days a year – it all matters and helps to create a better, stronger community. Volunteerism helps to break down silos, it helps to give purpose and a sense of belonging.”

Giving back offers a meaningful way to engage with the community where Sam Trieu works, lives and plays. Trieu is the Community Manager at Auvik Networks and is on the board of Button Factory Arts in Uptown Waterloo. A staff member at Button Factory Arts recommended Trieu for the board after working together on the Night\Shift arts festival board. “I’d run volunteer sessions for other arts and culture events like Open Streets there and not known about the space’s rich history – it’s a City of Waterloo designated landmark dating back to 1886, manufacturing everything from buttons to buckles to cufflinks out of shell.”

Volunteering on the board of Button Factory Arts gives Trieu an excuse to expose others to the programs offered there. “I have a lot of affection for this little brick building. The people who volunteer there, who make up the board, who mind the front desk, who go from student to instructor, they feel it too. It's why you'll find me dragging friends into a pottery class, or bartending a holiday market open house.”

Kendra Ross not only likes to volunteer her time, but also her professional skills. Ross is the VP of Marketing at Oak & Rumble in Waterloo. Ross has been helping groups like the May Court Club of KW and oneROOF Youth Services with such projects as rewriting their website, developing a social media strategy and creating new video content.

“I feel like when I can help a group tell their story, my impact has real meaning in terms of increased donations and community participation,” said Ross. She also volunteers her time with the WR Connectors Program and the Business & Education Partnership of Waterloo Region. “I've loved working with groups like the Business & Education Partnership. I've been able to directly speak with and support young people who are exploring their future. You get to make a real impact in someone's life."

Ross looks at giving back as a way to say thank you to a community that has always supported her. “Kitchener-Waterloo has been so good to me. All of the opportunities I've had are because of a tight community of people who lifted and supported each other. It's really important to me that I try to give those opportunities to others.”

Volunteering offers rewards for everyone involved. Check out our Giving Guide to see if there’s an opportunity that matches what you can provide, whether that’s money, time or skills. If you’re a local organization that has a volunteering opportunity you’d like to share, send us an email.

# # #

While you’re giving back, I see and hear that...The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has its Yuletide Spectacular this Friday, Saturday and Sunday with matinee and evening performances. Feel the spirit of the season with Waterloo Region’s favourite holiday tradition, this year featuring the story of The Nutcracker for narrator and orchestra with beautiful projected images by Canadian illustrator Rajka Kupesic. I AM Kitchener is hosting an Indigenous Art Market on Saturday, Dec. 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda. Queen Street Yoga and the Aroma Cafe present the All is Calm, All is Bright – Holiday Market on Sunday, Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.