COVER

THE VOLUNTEER HIGHWAY

SANDRA FARRAN July 1 1996
COVER

THE VOLUNTEER HIGHWAY

SANDRA FARRAN July 1 1996

THE VOLUNTEER HIGHWAY

The telephone remains the most popular way of getting in touch with volunteer agencies. But the World Wide Web is fast providing an easy path to hooking up and helping out. "It’s my guess that 10 years from now it will be the major way we do business,” says Paddy Bowen, executive director of Volunteer Canada. In feet, Frank Hird-Rutter, 67, of Duncan, B.C., has already gone on-line to lend a hand. He offered his services to the Cowichan Valley Volunteer Society after seeing a posting for volunteers on its Internet home page (http://www.island.net/~-rltaylorlcvvsllist.html). The retired editor of the Cowichan Leader newspaper now drives senior citizens to appointments about three times a week. Says Hird-Rutter: “Someday, I may need help and I hope there will be someone there for me.”

Among the first to develop home pages have been such national associations as Epilepsy Canada (www.generation.net/~epilepsy) and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada (http://sai.sar.icis.net/home/ bcsdvolunteer.html). But now, a tiny number of local and regional organizations are moving on-line—from the Timmins Volunteer Centre in Northern Ontario (http:llwww. danet.on.calpageslbryd\ejHndex.html) to the Manitoba Hospice Foundation (http://www.mbnet. mb.calcrmlhealthlmbhospic.html). “It’s quite arbitrary at the moment,” says Bowen. “But the potential is massive.” And as more Canadians hook up to the Web, nonprofit organizations are hoping to lure a new generation of volunteers. Says Dale Cuthbertson, executive director of Volunteer Vancouver: “Part of our rationale for having a home page is to attract younger people.”

It may also help attract new revenue. Bowen is convinced she will be able to interest advertisers in Volunteer Canada’s Web site, currently under construction.“There are millions of people who volunteer in Canada,” says Bowen. “If we can prove that people are hitting our site a lot, we can go to corporate sponsors and say, ‘Look at the potential.’ ”

For those who depend on volunteer organizations, the Internet is also making life easier. “So many people are isolated at home,” says Easter Armas-Mikulik, executive director of A Loving Spoonful (http://www.netfmder.com/spoonful/story. html), a volunteer agency in Vancouver that provides free meals to people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “Their only connection is through the Web.” In the past six months, A Loving Spoonful’s home page, which provides tips about healthy living, has been visited about 1,000 times—a respectable figure for a local special-interest organization. “The best part is that it is raising awareness about nutrition and HIV” says Armas-Mikulik. But she is the first to acknowledge that there have also been some tangible benefits for her organization.“! have people who send donations,” she adds, “who say they saw us on the Web site.”

For those who are non-surfers, but interested in finding a means to volunteer, Bowen suggests calling the following national organizations for a list of their affiliates:

Volunteer Canada: I -800-670-0401

Canadian Centre for Philanthropy: I -800-263-1178

(http://www.ccp.ca/imagine)

United Way of Canada-Centraide Canada: I -800-267-8221 YMCA Canada: 416-485-9447 Canadian Environmental Network: 613-563-2078 Canadian Parks and Recreation Association: 613-748-5651 (http://www.activeliving.ca/activeliving/cpra.html)

Canadian Association for Community Care: 613-241 -7510 Community Foundations of Canada: 613-236-1616 Canadian Conference of the Arts: 1-800-463-3561 (http://www.ffa.ucalgary.ca)

SANDRA FARRAN