Published on April 11, 2023
We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week with a spotlight on a long-time Evergreen volunteer. See what motivates him to make a positive impact in his community.
Volunteering positively impacts everyone involved.
It builds our capacity to work collectively and contribute to a vibrant, inclusive society; it’s vital for charities that depend on volunteer work to operate; and the personal benefits include increasing health and happiness, building interpersonal skills and meeting like-minded people.
As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we’re excited to chat with Garth Lawrence, a dedicated Evergreen volunteer for seven years. Garth’s passion for urban sustainability has led him to get involved with various activities at Evergreen, from helping out at the Farmers Market to leading tours.
We caught up with Garth to learn more about his experience volunteering with Evergreen and what motivates him to make a positive impact in his community.
I started coming to the site in the late 1990s after the Weston Family Quarry Garden officially opened to the public. I was fascinated by the transformation of an industrial site into an urban wildlife sanctuary accessible to the public. And, of course, the physical proximity to the then abandoned factory buildings added another level of interest. My first volunteer shifts were connected to special events like “Seedy Sunday” and “Drop, Swap and Shop”. Events like these made me feel I was helping out in some way with promoting the idea of urban sustainability. Plus, these early shifts gave me a reason for coming into the Don Valley.
These days I’m on site most Saturdays helping out in the Farmers Market. I’ve been doing that since the first summer of pandemic lockdowns. I started off thinking it would be a temporary stint, but here I am three years later. That was because all other volunteer roles were on hiatus. Pre-Covid I was helping out with special events. I also was a volunteer on a couple of other teams, namely “Arts and Exhibits” and Visitor Experience. And I am so happy that public tours are back because the tour guide role is my favourite.
I enjoy any role that lets me engage with visitors. I get to do that at the Farmers Market, the Welcome Desk and especially when I’m leading a public site tour. And now I also get to mentor new and returning volunteers who are getting back into roles that have been missing for the past few years.
“I try to remember the gifts of time, thought and energy I’m capable of giving in exchange for learning new skills and maintaining a sense of vitality.”
My approach is always centered around having a great conversation with visitors. My tours are very interactive — I don’t recite a litany of dates and names. I tell stories about the past and present that let visitors participate in the very act of storytelling. Most of them are surprised at how much knowledge they already possess. And adults are most often amazed at how much knowledge their children have.
My favourite experience was during my first time on a shift for one of the semi-annual “Drop Swap and Shop” events. There are some serious shoppers at these events. My role was to bring “new” items from the receiving room onto the shopping floor in the BMO Atrium. I quickly learned that each time I came in I would be “swarmed” by a mob (OK, five or six shoppers) that would hover right near the door to get a first look at items as they were brought into the space.
I volunteer several days a week at a couple of organizations — a luxury I can afford as a retired person. The most important quality you need as a volunteer is generosity of spirit. I don’t think of myself as the lowest person on the organization’s ladder. Instead, I try to remember the gifts of time, thought and energy I’m capable of giving in exchange for learning new skills and maintaining a sense of vitality.
Learn how to get involved
Want to volunteer with Evergreen? Through volunteering, you can take action and help make your city better. Volunteering is a great way to give back, share and build new skills, connect with community and nature and have some fun. Volunteers in our network will receive training and learning opportunities, regular communications, ongoing support and appreciation. Our volunteer opportunities span many areas of Evergreen’s work including child and youth programs, public markets, community stewardship, festival and events and more.
If you have additional questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-596-1495 x331.