Last year, Jasmine Basner was sorting toys and getting hampers ready for families in need as a volunteer for the annual toy drive organized by Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions (SMFC).
“I have always enjoyed being able to lend a hand. I love helping others in any way, big or small,” Basner says of her volunteer role with the child protection agency.
Self-described as a fairly busy mom running and managing a business, and having three boys in hockey, Basner was looking for some personal fulfillment outside of work and home.
“The holiday season has always been a favourite of mine and it seemed the perfect time to get involved," she tells BarrieToday.
The fulfillment Basner found volunteering for the SMFC’s holiday program was also an inspiring community experience for her.
“Being able to help in even this small way gives me joy. And the gratifying part is seeing the giving spirit of our community," she says.
Besides meeting a life goal, Basner says she feels impacted by the role played by the SMFC in supporting vulnerable children across the region.
“Having businesses and groups in our local community that are committed to protecting those who often cannot protect themselves is so important," she says.
As a local child welfare agency, the SMFC assists kids displaced from their living situations because of imminent safety risks. These include programs and services developed in response to the needs of children, youth and families.
Lisette Gagné, a foster recruitment specialist at the SMFC, says volunteers play a critical role for the children's services agency.
“When a child or youth is brought into temporary foster care and placed outside of their community, there is a loss of family, friends, schoolmates, teachers, and everything that is familiar to them," Gagné says.
Gagné noted the increase in the number of volunteers across the communities in Simcoe-Muskoka, allowing children and youth to remain connected to what is important to them.
“Our goal is to build a fostering community that meets the diverse needs of the children that require care,” said Gagné, adding Simcoe-Muskoka communities can meet these needs. “There exist people who work within a child’s focused fields and who have the commitment and skills to support children, youth and their families.”
Gagné highlights the contribution of foster families, which she describes as regular families wanting to give back to their community.
“We would not be able to support families and children without the caring and loving foster-care providers in our jurisdiction," she says.
Speaking of Barrie, Gagné says the community has responded well to the needs of children and families who require temporary foster care.
“Barrie holds the largest number of foster homes compared to other communities in Simcoe and Muskoka, mainly due to its population," she adds.
However, Gagné says this does not allow SMFC to slow down in recruitment of foster families as the population of Barrie continues to increase, and thus services and supports are in even higher demand.
“The need for foster homes is greater now than it was in years past," she says. "If a family is looking to give back, are grateful for what they have and want to share their love with a child or youth and help them return safely to their biological family, this is a great opportunity for them to consider.”
Gagné explained that foster care can provide vital support that enables parents to address issues that are putting their children`s safety and well-being at risk.
“Foster caregivers provide a caring home that encourages a child or youth’s growth, development and well-being," she says.
Gagné tells BarrieToday that foster-care providers receive great satisfaction from seeing the children and youth return to their biological families.
“Care providers have the opportunity to change a life, many lives, one day at a time and the results are felt for years to come. Children and youth don't forget who supported them and cared for them during their most vulnerable times," she says.
Basner says she would like to do more and she's working to carve out a little time throughout the year to volunteer in different situations.
“You don’t have to have loads of time or even a consistent role to fill, just reach out and find out about ways that you can be involved," she says.
Basner believes her contribution to enhance children’s lives is an easy way.
For more information on volunteer opportunities with the organization, click here.