Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ride this year's horse to the rescue

Which of these horses is a community volunteer?
That's easy, the one that's worth it's weight in gold!

The New Year is often a time for making resolutions for personal improvement, such as giving up bad habits like smoking or developing good new ones, like exercise or better diet.
Well, now we’re at Chinese New Year, and in honour of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, perhaps this is a good time to make some resolutions that relate to the community and wider world.
One thing our community can always use is good, dedicated volunteers. Many things that society desperately needs seem to fall through the cracks of the capitalist market economy or fail to draw funding from vote-hungry governments. Yet the need is real, and the value you create by volunteering your time is incalculable.
As I write this, I am doing my overnight shift for Barrie’s Out of the Cold program, providing overflow space for men and women who find themselves without a space at any of the permanent shelters. It’s genuinely a life-saving program, because spending the night outside in the kind of winter we’ve been having can literally be a death sentence. The program runs 7 days a night for almost 6 full months, requiring about 1400 volunteer spots.
Although most positions are filled when the season begins, the overnight shift is always the hardest to keep staffed, and there remains a need for replacements and substitutes, male and female. It’s a pretty quiet shift; usually you can get some work done, or some reading. The breakfast shift also needs more people. If you can help out even just once a month, please find the online application at
Another program always needing more volunteers is the Barrie Free Clothing Centre, which provides for the wardrobe needs of people who can’t afford to shop at the mall. Four-hour daytime shifts on weekdays or weekends are available, where you can help sort, fold, hang, and distribute clothing to the over 600 regular clients. To get involved with this project, visit, email or call 705-252-6005.
Another worthy Lunar New Year’s resolution is to live more lightly on our Earth. As I was replacing a broken-down CD player last week, I noticed the new eco-fee on the bill. This is applied to new electronics based on their weight class, designed to cover the cost of recycling them at the end of their working lifespan. It’s a lot like the deposit you pay on beer, wine, or liquor bottles, or that we paid on pop bottles in my youth, except that instead of bringing your empties back to the store, you bring your old electronics to a licensed e-waste recycler who pays you for them, drawing upon the funds put into the stewardship fund with new purchases.
To make this process easier for you, we are excited to be hosting our 5th annual Earth Hour Super-Drive on March 29th in support of Off the Rack Barrie Free Clothing Centre and the Elizabeth Fry Grocery Assistance Program. Bring your old electric items (anything with a chip, plug, or battery) and we’ll weigh them and pay you cash by the pound. We’ll also be accepting clothing and food donations. Watch this column or visit for more details.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Keep those resolutions and start volunteering"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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