The key to successful volunteerism, according to Lisa De Paoli, is to find a way to give back to the community by doing something you love.
De Paoli, vice-president of the South Cariboo Community Enhancement Foundation, has found the perfect way to do just that, starting a local chapter of the national Quilts for Survivors project.
Founded by an Indigenous woman in Timmins, Ont., Quilts for Survivors collects handmade quilts to be donated to survivors of residential schools and other trauma.
“I saw it on the news one day and thought, ‘wow, that would be really cool to do here,’” De Paoli said, adding that the Cariboo has its own “tragic, terrible history of residential schools.
“You try to figure out what we can do to help in some small way in the healing and understanding of what happened.”
De Paoli reached out to Dancing Quilts owner Faith Andre who immediately agreed to take part in the project. A group of four local quilters are working on the project, with an initial goal of making 50 quilts for the Williams Lake First Nation band.
“The quilts are made with love, so hopefully they can give a little bit of comfort to survivors,” she said.
Anyone wishing to contribute a quilt, supplies or to join in the project is welcome to reach out to De Paoli or stop by Dancing Quilts for more info.
Taking part in such volunteer-driven projects wasn’t something that De Paoli was able to do prior to relocating to the South Cariboo in 2008, due to her hectic work schedule.
Working in the Lower Mainland as a health care administrator - at various places including Vancouver Coastal Health and Surrey Memorial Hospital - De Paoli said there was no time for community involvement.
When she moved to the 100 Mile House area - she jokes that it was only supposed to be for one year but turned into 14 - she took a new career path as executive director of Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre.
Though she has since retired, working in the social services sector allowed her the flexibility to get involved in the community, including joining the board of the SCCEF.
The foundation provides grants to other groups in the community for projects, events or programs that help to enhance the community.
De Paoli said after several years of building the foundation’s structure and raising awareness, the group now offers grants totalling $20,000 to $30,000 per year.
“Our biggest job is to get the word out about the foundation, to let people know we’re here and to get them to apply for funding,” De Paoli said.
Foundation grants have been awarded to several different types of community groups, she noted, including the White Cane Club, Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy and most recently to the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre for its downtown relocation project.
The group is on the hunt for new board members, De Paoli said, noting that the foundation is aiming to diversify its board with members from all backgrounds, industries and cultures.
The nice thing about the SCCEF, she said, is that it shines a light on the many hard-working volunteers in a variety of organizations in the community. The other foundation members are also a lot of fun to work with, she said.
“It’s a great group, it doesn’t feel like work at all,” she said. “And of course giving out money is kind of fun!”
To find out more about the foundation and its grant eligibility, visit www.sccef.org