Filling the gap

There are many ways for young professionals to contribute their time, energy and talent to their communities. However, not all volunteer opportunities are designed to meet the unique needs of people in their 20s and 30s. Non-profit organizations in Kelowna are evolving in order to gain access to this pool of young talent in a way that works for both the volunteers and the cause.

“One fresh approach is being able to create online volunteer profiles and receive e-mail matches for current opportunities,” adds Dawn Wilkinson, Coordinator Community Information and Volunteer Centre. “This appeals to computer savvy young adults as an easy step to finding satisfying volunteer experiences.”   

Networking, career development opportunities, and flexibility are themes that United Way heard over and over again from younger professionals, and that’s how GenNext was born.

Now active in Kelowna and Penticton, GenNext offers members a way to “fill the gap” in both their own lives and the community. GenNext members volunteer together as a group, raise funds for agencies supported by United Way, offer their diverse skills to the community, and help each other grow as people and as professionals. GenNext members are truly the leaders of tomorrow, and will be responsible for taking the United Way movement into the future.

“GenNext helps provide opportunities to improve the community and connect people using a more modern approach to philanthropy,” says Heather Pesta, who serves as the Marketing Director for GenNext Kelowna and is an Employee Benefits Specialist at Great West Life. “We make a difference not only by volunteering our time and skills, but also helping to raise awareness and funds for essential programs and causes. We have a lot of new ideas and positive energy, which is essential for the long term health and culture of the place we call home.”

Victory Narynskyyi agrees. Co-founder of Centro Consulting Inc., Narynskyyi manages communication and technology for GenNext.

“GenNext is unique because it allows its members to contribute whenever they can. It's a low-pressure environment, something that I think is essential with young professionals. GenNext works with a number of organizations which translates into variety of volunteering options for its members. You can always find something new to do, which is another big advantage,” says Narynskyyi.

Katie Bowling is the Chair of the Penticton GenNext group. She got involved with United Way by first volunteering at a United Way Community Partner Agency. Bowling has a clear vision for the future of GenNext Penticton, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this fall.

“We need to increase membership, ensure active involvement from all members, set and reach fundraising and other goals, and create partnerships in community involvement.”

In Penticton, GenNext is increasing membership and making an impact by hosting a City Council Candidates forum on November 2nd from 7 pm-8:30 pm at Opus Cafe. They will be accepting donations for JCI Food Bank Drive and United Way SOS Campaign at the event.  They will also be showcasing a musical performance fundraiser for the United Way Campaign/JCI Food Bank Drive sometime in the near future.

One way that GenNext Kelowna is increasing membership is through their flagship event in Kelowna, featuring live mannequins, a DJ and chances to win amazing prizes. Everyone is welcome to attend.

El Masquerado will be held at the Eldorado on November 10th. Tickets are only $25, including 2 drinks and appies, and are available at Frock Clothing on Pandosy Street, or online at eventbrite.com. All proceeds benefit agencies funded by United Way.

Change starts here, because young leaders are reaching into the future of philanthropy and making their vision a reality.

For more information on how you can fill the gap, visit gennextkelowna.com, or search GenNext Kelowna or GenNext Penticton on Facebook.

To find out how you can be part of change, visit unitedwaycso.com for the Central Okanagan, and unitedwaysos.com for the South Okanagan.

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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