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Fergus mom recognized for school volunteering

Volunteer recognition - Melina Gillies of Fergus will be recognized for her volunteer efforts at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Fergus during a Staff Volunteer Recognition Night on May 8 at the River Run Centre in Guelph.   Photo by Jaime Myslik

Fergus mom recognized for school volunteering

by Jaime Myslik

FERGUS - “I think a lot of people think that they don’t have time to volunteer until they try something,” said Melina Gillies, a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Fergus.

 “I think there’s a lot of positives that come out of it, particularly in the school system because you can see ... the immediate effects of what you’re doing when you have kids running up to you in the hallway and saying ‘thank you’ for the snack that day.

“I think that the more we can be visible in the school doing that ... I think the better it is for kids because I think it sets up a whole new generation of volunteers.”

Gillies will be recognized at the Wellington Catholic District School Board’s Staff Volunteer Recognition Night at the River Run Centre on May 8. Nominated volunteers from each school in the board will also be recognized.

“She is just so humble about giving, she’s just all about the school and the kids and making a difference and she’s just a ... wonderful individual,” said school principal Todd Goodwin.

Gillies has two daughters at St. Joseph’s and she has been volunteering her time in various capacities for the last five years, since the family moved to Fergus.

“Part of it was just to maybe meet some parents because we didn’t really know anybody in Fergus,” Gillies said.

“I just decided to show up one day for parent council and meet some parents and found that it was a really engaging group of parents who were really involved and really passionate about  helping our school succeed and grow and make sure the kids have what they need to learn.”

Now Gillies is the secretary of the school’s parent council.

“She faithfully comes in, does the agenda for each meeting, does the minutes for each meeting ... even prior to the meeting she will come in and set up the seating for the meeting,” Goodwin said.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone so organized. She really does a wonderful job.”

However, her involvement does not end at parent council.

She is also very involved in the Food and Friends program at the school, which provides a nutritious snack to students twice a week.

“That’s one of the most rewarding things I would say that I do because little tummies work better when they’re full right?” she said.

While Gillies helps to deliver the snacks to each class every Tuesday and some Thursdays, she also helps with the purchasing the food for 374 kids.

“We make sure that we have at least three of the four food groups during every snack so it takes a lot of menu planning and frugal shopping and trying to make sure that we have enough variety for the kids that they stay interested in what we’re giving them,” she said.

Goodwin said the program wouldn’t run without volunteers like Gillies, who also volunteers at various fundraisers and school functions throughout the year.

Growing up Gillies said she appreciated that her mom always volunteered at her school and she wanted to do the same for her daughters.

“Just after we moved to Fergus and I started working from home so that gave me a little bit more flexibility to do some of these things and volunteer for field trips and stuff, which I never ever had been able to do up until that point,” she said, having left a government job.

“I’m very lucky that I have the flexibility to be able to come in and help and you know be a recognizable face to my kids at school and their teachers and the other kids of course.”

Goodwin said it’s reliability that makes Gillies so unique.

“If you need her she’s there and not everybody can, or is willing to do that ... she makes things happen and she’s an important part of our community,” he said.

Gillies and her family have been invited to the Staff Volunteer Recognition Night at the River Run Centre in Guelph, where she will be recognized for her efforts and the family will be treated to a meal catered by the St. James Catholic High School hospitality program.

Learning about the volunteer recognition nomination was quite unexpected for Gillies.

“Well, I was a bit speechless because ... I feel like there’s always more I could be doing and I feel like I’m just a very small cog in a very big wheel of parent volunteers,” she said.

“So I was shocked that they had chosen me, but obviously very pleased.”

And she has advice to people who think they’re too busy to volunteer.

“It really takes a lot less time than you think it does,” she said.

“If you just say ‘okay I’m going to reserve half an hour just to go find out,’ you’re going to find something that’s going to fit into your schedule and the payback in terms of what you receive back from it is going to be worth way more than the effort you put in.”

April 21, 2017


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