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Sustainable Orillia thanks its Wonderful Volunteers

As the third annual Sustainable Orillia Month fades into recent history, what does not fade is the extraordinary passion and efforts of the many Sustainable Orillia volunteers who helped make the month-long campaign happen.  

More than fifty volunteers rallied in support of a full lineup of events, including the Electric Vehicle Weekend, The Repair Café, a Sustainable Art Show, fifteen in-person workshops and eight webinars. It was a full agenda, focused on how we can significantly reduce our carbon emissions—both individually and as organizations. Here’s a closer look at a couple of the events and some of the volunteers who enabled them.   

The ODAS Fall Fair was back, albeit for only a day! Allison Andrews seized on the opportunity to promote farm markets, community gardens and regenerative agriculture from her booth at the Fair. Allison is a semi-retired teacher; she and her husband operate a market-farm near Coldwater. The day at the fairgrounds was long, but Allison’s enthusiasm for her topics never flagged, sparking awareness and momentum among many passers-by.  

When asked about her volunteer work for Sustainable Orillia, Allison commented: “After some research into Sustainable Orillia, I realized quickly that it is an organization with a mission statement I could get behind.  The Agricultural and Natural Environment sector was a good fit for me, because I am a small market vendor with a strong interest in regenerative agriculture.  Our ability to use the land sustainably and equitably is highly important in our collective work to combat climate change and to ensure food security within our communities.”  Representing Sustainable Orillia’s Agriculture and Natural Environment sector, Allison did double duty later in the month, hosting a well-attended workshop at St. Paul’s Community Centre.   Bravo, Allison, for championing the work and the opportunities this key sector brings to the overall sustainability challenge.  

We’ve mentioned Dave VanAlstyne before – he’s Sustainable Orillia’s ‘Transportation Guy’ and Chair of the Infrastructure and Energy Sector team.  This past month Dave’s contributions went far beyond his passion for electric vehicles as he was the driving force (no pun intended!) behind the highly successful Electric Vehicle Weekend and the accompanying in-person workshops featuring expert speakers on a variety of relevant topics. All in all, more than 200 people attended the EV display and workshops. Dave and his wife Pat, as well as providing ongoing support throughout ‘Sustainable Orillia Week at the Orillia Square Mall,’ had previously distributed more than sixty Sustainable Orillia Month posters to locations throughout the area, ensuring awareness of the events planned for the week. A tour de force, David and Pat. 

Dave believes strongly in giving back: “We have a larger responsibility to help society move forward.  In my case I view the looming climate crisis as important enough to dedicate some of my time to the challenge.  No one person will solve the problem without the collective efforts of everyone, so what I do is just a small contribution to the larger picture. And what better way is there than to volunteer for a group of like-minded citizens that make up Sustainable Orillia?”

JackieIt can be lonely being green,” says our third featured volunteer in this article, Jackie Ramler, a financial professional who has been with Sustainable Orillia from its onset. “You see the need, you do what you can, but you can feel isolated and not making enough of a difference. Joining Sustainable Orillia was a way to dispel that isolation and come together with others that have the same vision for a brighter future. Incremental change across our communities can shift our course to reduce the effects of the looming climate crisis.”  

Jackie truly puts your money (and her own) where her mouth is. She believes passionately in sustainable investing and brings that same passion for sustainable solutions to her professional work with clients.  Beyond her webinars, Jackie is an active contributor to the Infrastructure and Energy team and continues to support Sustainable Orillia in many ways. 

There are many other volunteer stories to share, and the good news is that there’s lots to share in our future communications; the tougher task is to highlight just two or three at any given time, as everyone’s contribution is meaningful. Just like the fabled hummingbird putting out the forest fire one small beakfull at a time, every contribution a Sustainable Orillia volunteer makes moves us closer to putting out the climate fire. Many thanks to all of Sustainable Orillia’s wonderful volunteers. We look forward to continuing to share your stories in the future. 

And to those of you considering becoming a volunteer, we welcome your interest. Being a volunteer for Sustainable Orillia differs from most volunteer opportunities.  The overarching vision for sustainability is both pretty simple and at times, overwhelming.  Essentially, it is “save the planet!”  and the challenge with such a vast goal is where to start. Can one individual truly make a difference? As fourteen-year-old Anne Frank once said, “Nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” More recently, the now eighteen-year old Greta Thunberg says, “I have learned that you are never too small to make a difference.”   So yes . . . your presence and participation are needed and valued on this journey. You can make a difference. 

Sustainable Orillia is an entirely volunteer-led and operated organization.  You can start by lending your talents, ideas and time to helping others learn and understand why this is such a critical movement. And you can start by finding your niche in this crusade—a sector or an activity that fits with your abilities and passion. Everyone is welcome. Interested readers can learn more and sign up to volunteer at www.sustainableorillia.ca.   Join Allison, Dave, Pat, Jackie and the growing number of local champions—our own hummingbird heroes—in making the necessary change happen. Right here in Orillia. As Greta Thunberg says, “The world is waking up and change is coming whether you like it or not.” Why not be part of that positive change? 

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