By Jared Davidson –
Though it is always true that volunteers build Kitchissippi, it is seldom as literal as in the case of volunteers like Dawn Wood, who has spent almost ten years working with Helping with Furniture. The aid that this organization gives to those in need in Ottawa, in the form of donated furniture, helps to welcome new Canadians and those who are in need of a fresh start. Dawn, in her work with the organization, has played a role in increasing the size and the strength of our community, ensuring that newcomers not only inhabit our city but feel they belong.
Perhaps it was Dawn’s formative years, spent living in Hintonburg, that fostered her strong sense of community. It was the 90s, she was in university, and the neighbourhood was a different place.
“It was a little more rough around the edges,” recalls Dawn, as young parents corral their children through the Bridgehead in which we’ve met. “And some of that I’m nostalgic for, but at the same time it’s nice to have a coffee place to pop into without having to go to Bank Street or the Market.”
Though Dawn says she would never live elsewhere in Ottawa, she feels the neighbourhood has lost some of that deep sense of community she remembers. She misses the days of feeling connected to everyone she met on the street, and it is this sense of neighbourliness that draws her to Helping with Furniture.
“I just like to help people, and at my current job I’m so removed from that kind of work,” she says.
She began working with Helping with Furniture as a volunteer in their warehouse. The organization collects donated furniture from across the city and stores it in a warehouse until it can be given to individuals and families in need. The organization, which is run entirely by committed volunteers, helps furnish the living spaces of three to seven families every week.
Helping with Furniture relies on donations and funds from its annual gala to support its ambitious work. This year’s gala will be held on April 20 at the St. Elias Centre and will feature both silent and live auctions, a four-course dinner, entertainment and a cocktail for every guest. Tickets, which can be purchased on the organization’s website, range from $60-$70 and all proceeds go towards ensuring Helping with Furniture can continue to help people feel comfortable in the community.
“It’s really nice to fill up the apartment of someone who’s just come out of a shelter and otherwise would only have a bed,” says Dawn. “It’s really gratifying to help people start over.”
And though Dawn’s allergies have made it impossible to continue to work in the warehouse, she has shifted her efforts to volunteer recruitment. She and her husband Almir continue to serve the organization, but she admits that, these days, she leaves the heavy lifting to the young recruits.
Now in its fourteenth year, the organization continues to attract new volunteers looking to make a difference. Dawn says Helping with Furniture attracts a certain kind of volunteer, one who wants to help people directly in the most tangible way possible.
“I think they have really big hearts, honestly,” she says.
Are there amazing volunteers or charitable organizations that we should know about? Send us your suggestions!