May 27, 2020

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Opinion

Out of work but in demand

Volunteering at 1JustCity just the ticket after job loss

Caileigh Morrison says she’s not the type to just sit around, so when she was laid off, she started looking for volunteer opportunities. She’s fit right in at 1Just City. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Caileigh Morrison says she’s not the type to just sit around, so when she was laid off, she started looking for volunteer opportunities. She’s fit right in at 1Just City. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Caileigh Morrison means it when she says she can go with the flow. After the 29-year-old was laid off in March, she started volunteering.

Morrison had saved a down payment for a house when she lost her job working in the Balmoral Hall residence, so she had a nest egg to live on for a while.

"Pretty immediately my thoughts turned from feeling sorry for myself… to asking myself, OK, what am I going to do?" Morrison says. "There are 14 million other things I can possibly do."

The Wolseley resident decided to take an internship at 1JustCity.

Established in 2015, the organization works with three charities — Oak Table, St. Matthews-Maryland Community Ministry and West Broadway Community Services — as well as independent programming to help people who are poor, homeless, have mental health struggles, addiction, hunger or loneliness.

Morrison has been volunteering 20 hours a week at the St. Matthews-Maryland location since the end of March.

Decked out in personal protective equipment, she helps out wherever she can, including sorting food bank donations, packing emergency food kits and distributing lunches.

"Being quarantined at home did not sound particularly appealing, so being able to get out of the house every day and interact with people, and serve a population that’s underserved and under-loved, that was really important and inspiring for me," Morrison says.

Morrison decks herself out in personal protective equipment before a recent shift. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Morrison decks herself out in personal protective equipment before a recent shift. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Volunteering has helped keep her mind off the COVID-19 news cycle.

"Definitely in the first couple weeks I was working here I was stressed out with the news, so having that physical activity to tire myself out was really nice," she says. "I would get home bone-tired and I wouldn’t worry about infection numbers and if it was spreading."

Building relationships with the guests, employees and volunteers at 1JustCity has been meaningful for Morrison, who lives alone.

"If I wasn’t here, I would be completely cut off from the world," she says. "It’s a very good environment to come into, especially at such a stressful time, because it’s so structured and very caring. It’s great."

Born and raised in Mississauga, Ont., Morrison earned a master’s degree at Trent University in Peterborough before moving to Winnipeg in 2015.

She volunteers with the Winnipeg Society of Friends (Quakers). In the past, she served on the board of directors at 101.5 UMFM, the campus radio station at the University of Manitoba.

"Most of my volunteer experience has been on boards or doing more of the thinking work," she says. "It has been really nice to be able to do front-line service work."

As her internship winds down and she prepares to move to Portage la Prairie, Morrison is thankful she got involved at 1JustCity.

"It’s stressful and it’s crappy to have to lose my job, but it’s also been an amazing opportunity to try other things and find other things I’m interested in doing," she says. "I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity, because now there are a lot of options open to me."

1JustCity is looking for more volunteers. Anyone with leadership experience and a passion for social justice is encouraged to email volunteer@1justcity.ca.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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