Volunteering: good for the community and mental health

·3 min read

During quarantine, we have been reminded not only how important community and socialization is, but also our mental health. When we think of volunteering, we often think of helping others, but don't realize it can also do wonders for our own mental health.

Fort Frances Mayor, June Caul, is an active volunteer in the community and has been for many years.

Any volunteer opportunity in town that you can think of, Caul has probably done it. She has volunteered for the community Christmas dinner for more than 20 years and coordinated the Meals on Wheels for most of those years. She has also been president of the Rainycrest Auxiliary for 10 years, a member of the local Kiwanis Club for eight years, a volunteer for the Fort Francis Canadian Bass championship and she joined the Substance Abuse Prevention Team committee just to name a few.

Caul said she has a message on her fridge that says ‘volunteerism is the rent we pay to live in a good community’. She said that it reminds her of why she volunteers.

“The community wouldn't be what it is without its volunteers,” Caul said. “Every community activity that goes on and every committee or board that is involved in any way with anything in the town whether it’s sports or politically, if you don’t have your volunteers, you are in trouble.”

Charlene Strain, quality and risk manager at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), said the mental health benefits are numerous for volunteering or getting involved in the community.

Strain said volunteering decreases the risk of depression, especially for individuals 65 and older. It also increases social interaction, helps build a support system, provides physical and mental health, reduces stress, gives you a renewed purpose and reduces anxiety.

“Volunteering is a way to meet other people and get involved in your community and reduce isolation,” Strain said.

Caul said she never feels overwhelmed by the amount she does because she truly enjoys it. She adds that meeting people and interacting with members of the community is what she is passionate about.

“I never feel like I want to quit any of them,” Caul said. “I always enjoy being with the people, I enjoy trying to make a difference in the community and again, I think if you’re willing to put your name forward onto a committee of anything, you need to be there and participate fully, not just sit back and let everybody else do the work.”

Someone else who doesn’t just ‘sit back and let everybody else do the work’ is Wayne Allen.

Allen said his love of sports is what got him into volunteering. He started volunteering around 35 years ago when his son was young and then started volunteering with minor hockey teams.

Allen is vice president for the Fort Frances Lakers Association/Board and he first got involved with them in 2001.

He said he loves the work he does for the Lakers and because of it he’s gotten the opportunity to do many things like going to P.E.I. 13 years ago for the Centennial Cup. As well, in the last few years Allen has gotten involved with the Fort Frances Bass Tournament and he has been on the Sister Kennedy Centre board for the last three years.

Allen said he tries to volunteer wherever he can and that he loves the social aspect of volunteering.

“It keeps you out and about and you get out of the house,” Allen said. “You feel active, you get to know a lot of people in the community and you get to see things from a different perspective.”

Allen said it has not been the same because the pandemic has forced meetings onto Zoom or have cancelled altogether. He adds that he misses the in person connection and is hoping that COVID will improve by the time the bass tournament rolls around.

Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times