Volunteers are charities’ backbone

  • May 10, 2013

TORONTO - Volunteers are the vehicles that help to fulfill the dreams of others, says Marion Barszczyk.

And there are many dreams to be fulfilled within the 27 funded member agencies of Catholic Charities.

Barszczyk has been program manager at Catholic Charities for 25 years and helps volunteers identify what type of experience they are looking for and where their talents will be best suited.

The first step for volunteers is to identify that they want this additional experience in their life, she said. The second is to assess if they can make the necessary time commitment. And third, they must match the volunteer activity and their interests with a desire to see what’s available in the community.

“We try to sift out whether or not they want a direct service experience or whether they want to use their professional trained skills,” Barszczyk said.

Volunteers Julie Cachia and Alfred Chuang chose to take their professional skills out of the office and into charity. Cachia, who has worked in human resources for more than 20 years and has a master’s degree in theological studies, was approached by Barszczyk in 2010 to be on a Catholic Charities member review team for Sancta Maria House, a home for young women.

“I’m combining my human resources experience and my faith, which complements beautifully what I do with Catholic Charities, so it’s a real gift,” she said. “It’s one thing to be out in the business world to experience it from that perspective, but to take your work experience into non-profit and to see Catholic Charities agencies working the way they do was a tremendous value and benefit for me.”

She said the experience was collaborative, educational and very focused.

“As a volunteer, you get involved with things that are not necessarily directly involved in your line of expertise, but it allows you to learn more about your faith and it allows you to live it and learn it in a very action-oriented way.”

Behind-the-scenes work is not always at the forefront of people’s minds when they seek to volunteer. But Chuang, a life-long volunteer in various capacities, finds it rewarding and motivating because he can use his professional skills for the benefit of others.

The 33-year-old chartered accountant works in finance and represents the younger side of professional volunteers with Catholic Charities. Earlier this year, Chuang worked on his first membership review. As one of three members, each from a different profession, he was able to look at the agency’s finances, record keeping and financial reporting.

“Each one of us is blessed with different skill sets in a profession that we do well in. I think part of using that blessing is to give back to the community and to the Church,” he said.

Frontline volunteer opportunities dealing with the people charities serve, like the experiences he’s had at hospitals and food banks, are important to him. But charity can also exist in giving your time, providing labour and using your skill sets, he said.

Chuang continuously looks for ways to increase his faith. He recalls a parish priest in a homily saying, “Going to church every Sunday, that’s the bare minimum requirement as a Catholic…. Through your involvement, that’s one of the ways you can not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Show people how to live every day as a Catholic.”

Chuang believes you can live as a Catholic in modern society, and doing so can fit easily into daily life. By volunteering with Catholic Charities, Chuang says, “You get to see how other organizations can live with Catholic values in their day-to-day operations.”

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