Buy items with your time

On April 17, United Way of Greater Victoria will host an event called “Volunteering with Benefits . . . It’s about Time!” This event, put on by the UnitedNOW! Council in partnership with the Telus Victoria Community Board, features a silent auction at which volunteers will bid on prizes donated by local businesses. However, rather than bidding with money, attendees will bid their time, volunteering to help with a local non-profit organization of their choice.

Taking place downtown in the Strathcona Hotel, the event will last two and a half hours and feature a spoken word entertainer and appetizers, included in the price of the ticket.

The point of the event is to help raise awareness of community issues among young people.

“One of the ways we wanted to encourage people to get involved was through volunteering,” said United Way Community Impact Associate Tara Taggart. “At that age, they’re often in school, or starting out in their career, and don’t have a lot of disposable income, and we didn’t want to let that deter people from becoming involved.”

At the event, a number of local organizations will set up booths to help young people explore volunteering opportunities, including Youth in Action, Need2, the Royal B.C. Museum, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Nevertheless, bidded hours are not limited to these organizations. According to UnitedNOW! Council member Ashley Forseille, in the event’s five-year history, the auctioneers have never turned away a bidder’s preferred organization.

However, for people who would prefer guidance, the event will help showcase a number of organizations in the community that are looking for volunteers. Members of United Way will be on hand to help suggest avenues for volunteerism, including one-day events and community partners of United Way.

As for the auction itself, the prizes range from the somewhat jejune (a coffee mug) to the slightly more exotic. “Past years’ prizes have ranged from tablets, to plane tickets to Vancouver,” said Taggart. “We’ve had Canucks jerseys before, hotel stays, even event tickets.”

Organizers have worked to arrange for a variety of prizes, so that the number of hours required to win are attainable for first-time volunteers. “We’re really conscious, when we’re putting the prizes together, to make sure there’s a range,” explained Taggart, with prizes typically going for anywhere from four to 50 volunteer hours.

While the auction and the prizes are a bid to encourage participation, the main goal remains to promote volunteerism and philanthropy, as well as an awareness of Victoria’s unique community issues. “It’s about having people take that first step, to get involved in the community,” said Taggart. The United Way council hopes that, by fostering an atmosphere of energy and entertainment, they can convince people in their 20s and 30s to help give back to the community.

United Way itself has a 75-year history in Canada and is made of more than 100 autonomous, volunteer-based groups that share common branding and values. This means that United Way of Greater Victoria is uniquely local in its focus.

“Funding goes to programs that are specific to Victoria,” said Forseille. When deciding where to allocate the millions of dollars raised through fundraising campaigns, “United Way looks for programs that are needed here, at the issues that are biggest in Victoria and need to be funded and that aren’t.”

In Victoria, United Way does not function as a service-delivery organization. Instead, it works to raise funds and distribute them to front-line organizations that are selected by its council, after reviewing project proposals. Its priorities include educating children, helping those struggling with mental health and addiction issues, and aiding those in poverty to develop the skills to help them become self-sufficient.

Tickets for the Volunteering with Benefits event are $10 each, and may be purchased online through United Way’s website at uwgv.ca.

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