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Without volunteers Newmarket would be 'unrecognizable': mayor

National Volunteer Week ends April 30
Jackie Playter is a regular volunteer in Newmarket. Greg King for NewmarketToday

National Volunteer Week — a week to officially honour and thank Canada’s hardworking volunteers — ends April 30 and on Facebook Newmarket deputy mayor Tom Vegh thanked volunteers for "contributing to the well-being of the community."

This year's  theme was Volunteering is Empathy in Action. Whether they do it on behalf of a local, non-profit organization or on their own there is no shortage of volunteers in Newmarket.

"Without volunteers Newmarket wouldn't be the place it is today," said local resident Jackie Playter.

Playter is a volunteer extraordinaire. She has been volunteering for more than 50 years in one way or another with a dizzying amount of organizations.

Along with her commitments to charities and non-profits, the 73-year-old still finds time to rakes leaves, shop and walk dogs for anyone who needs it.

"I love the feeling I get when I know I've helped somebody in a good way."

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said individuals volunteer in various ways and at different points in their lives and (volunteering) is more common than we realize.  

If all the volunteers in Newmarket suddenly stopped one day the town would be "unrecognizable," he said.

"When you think of the collective impact of each individual and together what they do to make a community what it is, incredible."

Martha Berry is a volunteer coordinator as well as a volunteer for Inn From the Cold. She said she volunteers because she wants to give back to the community and it allows her to meet people from different walks of life.

"It's an opportunity to meet and be inspired by people (that) perhaps you may not run into in your regular course of life."

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians dedicated 5 billion hours to volunteering in 2018.

A TD Bank survey found that more than 90 per cent of Canadians who volunteer did so because they wanted to contribute to the community.

Berry said it takes a special person to give freely of themselves. But at the same time, volunteers walk away from the experience with a greater knowledge of themselves and of others.

"It makes me feel very lucky for what I have but also gives me an opportunity to grow and learn more about people and what the needs are in the community."

Playter said she isn't special, she just loves helping others and is in a position to do it. As a child, her family was helped by organizations like Lions Club and the Salvation Army and she always knew she wanted to pay it forward.

"I've always just wanted to help people, help children especially, that maybe wouldn't have what they have if I wasn't able to help them out a little bit."

According to Volunteer Canada, the practice helps to develop empathy. The organization said when individuals from different backgrounds and life experiences connect, it can broaden their understanding of each other and create a more inclusive society.

"If you haven't volunteered much or you haven't at all," said Taylor, "Realize this: there's as much in it for you as the people you're going to help."