20 years of volunteering
Storefront fills gap when agencies are short on cash

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 17/97) - In September 1977, Storefront for volunteer agencies, a one-year pilot project, opened its doors for the first time.

Now, workers and volunteers at the agency are celebrating two decades of service in Yellowknife.

"It's been a good 20 years," said Maureen Regel,

administrative and program assistant with Storefront.

The agency, which began with only five member agencies, now has about 43 members and over the years, they've probably had more, according to Regel.

Storefront serves many purposes.

"We have a volunteer database and they can phone in and say, for instance, the Cancer Society -- we need canvassers for our campaign and we can say, 'yes, we have some' and put them in contact with whatever agency needs them," said Regel.

The agency also organizes a variety of community events, such as the fall fair and spring fair, and each year they recognize corporate citizens at an awards ceremony as part of National Volunteer Week.

Storefront has managed to set up a youth volunteer corp as well, with 45 active volunteers.

The agency is often used as an information source for residents to find out what activities are happening in the community, like after-school programs and sporting activities.

If an organization is doing up a proposal for a contract they call Storefront for statistics, like how much does it cost for a volunteer for a year, Regel said.

Regel hopes to get Storefront more involved in the community in the future, with training workshops for voluntary governing boards and other agencies that utilize volunteers.

Like most agencies however, it depends on one item: funding, which Regal said is shrinking each year.

"There were at one point three staff members at Storefront and that's dwindled down to just the executive director, Denise Bekkema. I'm sort of a support staff worker. I do secretarial work, program assistant work and support wherever I can," said Regel.

Regel said the need for volunteers and volunteerism is increasing.

"In the government, budgets are cut and people are looking for work to be done, like 'how can I get this project done for this amount of dollars?'" said Regel.

They have to resort to volunteers, she added.

People also turn to Storefront to gain work experience to spruce up their resumes as they look for the right job.

To celebrate 20 years in Yellowknife, Storefront is hosting an open house which has been tentatively set for Nov. 7.

Storefront is constantly looking for volunteers. To sign up, drop by Storefront located above Overlander Sports on 51st Avenue.