Guest Blog: SRC Volunteers

srcinactionWe welcomed the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) this fall, when they visited The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre to give back to their community. They sent 400 employees for a three hour volunteer shift each. Cameron Zimmer shared his #AmazingYXE story, and we want to share it with you.  

 

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Volunteering is a Shock                                                                                                                                                   Cameron Zimmer

Last summer I started looking into having my company, the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), volunteer at food banks as part of our new employee volunteer program. Since we are dedicating a lot of our employees’ time to initiatives in Saskatchewan communities this year, I wanted to make sure that our local partner was well-organized and had real impacts.

And, to be frank, I figured volunteering at the Saskatoon Food Bank would be a mellow initiative where we could volunteer, feel good and get back to work.

It’s been the opposite. Don’t get me wrong—volunteering at a food bank has been extremely rewarding. It’s also been a shock, and like any shocking event, you process it in stages.

Stage 1—Shock

Walking into the Saskatoon Food Bank warehouse for the first time is overwhelming. You realize that those small food bins you see around the city add up to gargantuan proportions when combined with the pallets of donations from grocery stores.

You also start to grasp how much more than food our community needs. The Food Bank has a clothing depot where 100-150 people a day purchase donated clothing and necessities like shampoo and diapers. They also run programs to help people finish their high school education and gain work experience. And they help put $7 million a year back into Saskatoon’s economy by providing free help in filling out tax returns.

Stage 2—Denial

After working as a volunteer for a few hours, you get past the donation volume and realize how quickly the donations go. The Food Bank receives 12,000 food requests a month. That’s so hard to process that you question it. There can’t be that many people in need when our city is doing so well, can there?

I’m not alone. Every week I make the trip down to introduce SRC volunteers to Saskatoon’s Food Bank. After our trip I’ll hear someone comment, “I had no idea the need was this big.”

Stage 3—Action 

The most exciting part about watching my colleagues go through this experience is seeing what happens after they’ve been through the first two stages.

We have a short chat after every time an employee group volunteers. Some sit silently while they think about what they saw. Others ask when they can volunteer again and if children can come.

Soon after, I start seeing emails from our scientists and engineers with ideas on how to design a more efficient food sorting process and other ways they could use their expertise to help out.

Better than expected

In the end, we haven’t been able to volunteer, feel good and leave. Instead, we are challenged with tough realities. I’m grateful that SRC is giving us the time to volunteer and be challenged. I’m also proud to work alongside colleagues who are inspired to use their ingenuity to help in new ways. Volunteering at the Food Bank hasn’t been what we expected—it’s been better.

Cameron Zimmer manages SRC’s Responsible Impacts section, which is dedicated to leading corporate social responsibility initiatives, including a volunteer program in which every employee gets one day a year to spend on a community initiative. 

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