With a break from school studies over the summer, more than a dozen clients with the Multicultural Association of Carleton County (MACC) used their extra time for community volunteering and personal growth.
On Wednesday evening, Aug. 25, MACC Community Involvement and Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Williams and School Program Coordinator Amy Anderson recognized the MACC clients' accomplishments with a presentation of certificates at the organization's downtown Woodstock office.
Anderson said she runs a weekly study group during the school year, which matches MACC's students with community mentors. With that program on hiatus for the summer, she explained, MACC replaced it with four weekly volunteer projects during Make a Difference Month in July and by hosting three weekly MACC Youth Leadership Development sessions.
Anderson, who worked with Williams to establish the summer programs, said most participants joined in both projects.
During Make a Difference Month, Anderson said, the volunteers began by weeding the Valley Food Bank garden and picking up litter along Woodstock's Main Street and Trans Canada Trail.
They help set up game stations for MACC's family picnic at Woodstock's Connell Park on week two.
Week three saw the volunteers visit Carleton Manor to meet with residents, known to the Manor as "neighbours."
In the final week of the volunteer program, the MACC youth joined local resident Tammey McLean to help on her project to clean up the old Poor Farm cemetery on Connell Street in Woodstock.
"It was fun. It was very interesting," said Temilade Adeniyi, one of the young volunteers, who moved to the Woodstock area about two years ago.
She said she welcomed the chance to meet the neighbours at Carleton Manor and listen to the stories they shared.
Brooke Webster-Snoad said she enjoyed the volunteer activities, noting they got her out of the house and active. As a history buff, she said, she particularly enjoyed helping at the old cemetery.
Anderson explained the leadership project involved weekly sessions on understanding personal and group leadership and opportunities for community involvement. Each session welcomed a known community leader as a guest speaker.
Week 1, titled "What Is Leadership?" invited special guest Scott Dunlop
Week 2 was "Task vs. Social Leadership," with guest Woodstock Coun. Trina Jones on hand.
Week 3 was "Values and Decision Making," with guest Karen Taylor.
Leadership project participant Faith Odetola, who has been a resident of Woodstock for less than a year, said she gained a lot of insight from the sessions.
"I learned that leadership is not only about you," she said, "It's about the people you lead and their help making the decisions with you."
As a newcomer to Woodstock, Odetola said, MACC's programs help her meet people.
Williams said volunteer programs and personal growth sessions are part of MACC's mandate to help newcomers feel comfortable in their new surroundings and help long-time Carleton County residents get to know their new neighbours.
"We help people integrate into the community through volunteer programs, regular activities and events that we host," said Williams. "The volunteer program is both community members who choose to volunteer with us and our clients and also having our clients volunteer in the community. It's a two-way partnership with the community."
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun