When Alison Liebel first got back to her hometown of Campbell River about five years ago, she knew the goal was to get into a career with a non-profit making a difference in the community.
She left a corporate job to return to where she wanted to live, and decided, as it were, “if you’re going to spend that much time at work, it should be something that makes you feel good,” she says. “For me, that’s community involvement.”
She jumped around a bit from part-time paid position to contract position, but as she was doing that, she also signed up to help at the Habitat for Humanity build site on Hilchey Road to help out. She then added some work at the organization’s Re-Store to her weeks, and before she knew it, she landed an “almost-full-time” job as the organization’s community engagement manager.
“I do volunteer recruitment, support and recognition and I couldn’t be happier about it,” Liebel says.
Unfortunately, the world was then turned upside down by a global pandemic, which complicated things.
“A lot of my role for the past year has been communicating with our volunteers to try to understand their comfort level with the ever-changing expectations and guidelines and information that’s out there,” she says. “The vast majority of the non-profit labour out there is retired people, and a good chunk of that is seniors, who are obviously very vulnerable to COVID.”
But while many non-profits have been struggling with having enough volunteers to do what needs doing due to covid, Habitat is almost struggling with the opposite.
“For us it’s been more about the restrictions and guidelines themselves,” Liebel says. “At the build site, for example, we’re just at the tail end of finishing the details, so it’s all inside work now. We’ve had to drastically reduce the number of volunteers on the build site. We can’t wait to get to landscaping when we can get people back outside and get more people back at the site helping out in a safe way.”
They do also expect to be able to be back at full capacity once work gets started at the new housing complex, located right next door to the current build site on Hilchey.
But Liebel also wants to remind people that while seeing homes going up is the most obvious part of what the organization does, it can’t be done without what’s happening in the background: The ReStore.
“When people think of Habitat they think of swinging hammers, but our ReStore is how we keep things going,” she says. “It’s the engine that keeps us driving, and volunteers at the ReStore are an integral part of us doing what we do.”
And there’s an added perk to putting in some time helping out at the ReStore, as well.
“Once you’ve put in 40 hours of volunteer work with us – which doesn’t take long at all – you get a discount card for 25 per cent off anything in the store,” Liebel says.
You can sign up to become a volunteer with Habitat by visiting www.habitatnorthisland.com and looking for the “Volunteer” button.
“This has certainly been a challenging year, but it’s also really demonstrated how dedicated people are in this community,” Liebel says. “It’s entirely humbling when you’re with an organization like this and see how committed people are to what you’re doing.”