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“You can always give back.”

May 16th, 2017

Volunteer Annual Party 2017

At the end of April, National Volunteer Appreciation week showcased the tireless work of many Canadians who devote their spare time to helping charitable causes – free of charge. So many organizations we know and love, including the AGO, could not function without them.

Both the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario held award ceremonies recently to honour exceptional volunteers, including AGO volunteer Sybil Wilkinson, who has been working with the AGO for 37 (37!) years. Sybil, a prolific volunteer, was honoured with the Toronto Volunteer Legacy Award this year, specifically for her time spent with Hospice Toronto. We caught up with her to get her thoughts about volunteering.

AGO: What made you start volunteering at the AGO 37 years ago?
Sybil: I have always volunteered from a very young child growing up in Barbados, so it was a natural choice for me when I arrived in Canada in 1963 to carry on in that tradition. In the words and teachings of my grandmother, “you can always give back.” I was a volunteer at Harbourfront Centre when the Volunteer Coordinator left her position there to work at the AGO. She thought I might find the Gallery an interesting place to volunteer, so I started in 1979 in the gift shop.

AGO: What are the several organizations you now volunteer at?
Sybil: I continue to volunteer at Harbourfront Centre. I also volunteer with Hospice Toronto as an In-House Team Member, which means I visit the homes of our palliative clients. I am also part of the volunteer training team. This year, Hospice Toronto nominated me and I received the Toronto Volunteer Legacy Award. About 1,500 nominations were received, and I was one of the 25 shortlisted to receive the Award. I am extremely proud to have been recognized for the small contribution I make to this organization. In terms of community organizations, I volunteer with the Ratepayers’ Association, Horticultural Society, and more.

AGO: What’s a significant moment in your volunteer work that you remember?
Sybil: The single most outstanding moment—and there are many—is being welcomed into the home of complete strangers as they chose me to be a part of their end-of-life team. So humbling.

AGO: How would you recommend someone who’s thinking about volunteering go about choosing the right place and role?
Sybil: Take time to think about the opportunities that are available. And very carefully match the volunteer opportunity to things like: how much time do you really have to share; what is your tolerance level; your flexibility; are you willing to be open to learning from and with those with whom you come in contact. Choose something you really like and can commit to or, on the other hand, as I do, look for opportunities that are different and present opportunities for openness and learning. AND BE A COMMITTED VOLUNTEER.

We salute the amazing volunteers who keep organizations across Toronto vital, and our own volunteers who help make the AGO great. Thank you!

If you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website.

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