The way that people choose to contribute to social causes can change from one generation to the next. While older donors have a strong commitment to making charitable contributions, some younger ones also prefer to add a hands-on volunteering component to how they give.
Members of the “millennial” generation, who may have been doing volunteer work since they were in high school, like to show their support in ways that are more active and intimate, rather than providing funds. At Street Health, we’ve also found that many businesses and companies encourage their employees to seek ways that their time and effort can create change in their communities. One such company is Toronto’s The Bargains Group (www.bargainsgroup.com).
Jody Steinhauer, CEO at The Bargains Group, created the charity Engage and Change as a way to connect people who want to help with opportunities to directly support community organizations like ours. Their way of giving back is to identify urgent yet under-served needs and respond with solutions that clients will truly appreciate. “We inspire people and businesses to engage in a hands-on experience with a tangible outcome,” says Jody. “…outcomes that will change the daily lives of real people in our communities.”
Engage and Change focuses on the issues of poverty and homelessness with two annual initiatives: Project Winter Survival and Project Water; both depend on teams of volunteers. Project Winter Survival kits’ include sleeping bags, socks, scarves, mitts, toques, basic hygiene supplies and more totaling over 30 essential items. Project Water provides cases of bottled water and summer survival kits to agencies that serve homeless people, responding to the fact that homeless people, often without access to air-conditioned spaces, are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and dehydration. In spearheading these initiatives, Engage and Change gives people and companies the opportunity to do group volunteer work and help to ensure that these kits get to those in need. This past winter, Street Health received 30 Winter Survival Kits. Through Project Water, we received three skids of bottled water and summer survival kits. Whether we connected with clients at our office or on outreach during extreme-weather alerts, we were able to extend those initial volunteer efforts to countless vulnerable people. These contacts allow us to also engage with people who may benefit from healthcare, mental health support or the other programs we provide.
Different ways of donating all have direct benefits for our clients. Terry Peters, Street Health’s Administrative Coordinator, sees these benefits every day. “In recent years, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of homeless clients lacking the means for basic survival. When winter and summer present their harshest extremes, we continue to help these folks thanks to support from our donors and from the volunteers at Engage and Change,” Terry reflects, “…and the help always arrives when it’s needed most.”