Volunteering provides you with so many opportunites and then some!

I am a firm believer in Volunteering – of giving back to your community, to a cause you believe in, to an organization you support, to a student who wants to grow, to a Team to better your workplace experiences…  whatever it is that you choose to support with your time, ideas, experience, talent, skills or hands-on labour, will inevitably leave you with exposure to new ideas and new networks and an appreciation for the strength that comes in teamwork and of the talents that volunteers bring to the table…  making anything possible!

There are a number of organizations that I have worked with during my lifetime and it is safe to say that I have held just about every role from Press Reporter to President beginning at an early age in 4-H…  that followed with early volunteer presentations as a Dairy Princess and Fall Fair Queen…  Eventually, community activities caught my interest and I eagerly joined a tiny group of people with a huge amount of spirit, drive and ambition in the development of our Kincardine Scottish Festival.  Despite the odds against us – 15 years later – our Festival is stronger than ever – in fact, it recently won an award!  And then there was  a whole summer spent with my husband both of us working full time and project managing a double build for Habitat for Humanity with 200+ volunteers and limited experience – in fact, I can still remember pouring cement and raking sidewalks at midnight to prepare for an open house the next day, and the list goes on…  I am sure that you and your families too have similar stories to tell!

Volunteering helps us grow – it helps us appreciate the organizations we believe in, the communities that we live in, the people that we work with.  Today, in addition to actively volunteering as a Mentor at the University of Western Ontario – something that I have truly enjoyed – and participating in a rural Women’s Institute Organization that I have been a Member of for the past 30 years, I was recently honoured to be elected to the position of Director of Events for WFIM (Women in Food Industry Management) – a role I have eagerly embraced and look forward to growing in!

WFIM – Women in Food Industry Management (www.wfim.ca) is an organization that I became familiar with in 2009 through a friend in the Food Industry who suggested I might like to attend an event.  I was delighted to be invited and eager to learn about the organization.  The first session I attended had me at the get-go – in fact, I even blogged about it, I was so impressed at the time!   (http://www.emccanada.org/blogs/emcfoodsec/learningth)…  Needless to say, I’ve attended several sessions since that first meeting, have met countless wonderful people and learned so much in the process.

So who is WFIM – well, this is an organization that is dedicated to supporting professionals to become “The Best Women at the Table” by encouraging advancement through networking and executive development.  Its Board is guided by common goals – to support women in our field, to connect them for their mutual benefit, and to help them develop into what we like to call “The Best Women at the Table”.  There are close to 200 Members from all facets of the food industry (CEO’s, Sales, Marketing, HR, Food Safety, Services, etc.) with representation in Ontario and Quebec.

We host special events featuring topics of interest, book reviews, culinary sessions, tours, roundtable networking academies, Gala dinners and a golf tournament – and, we always provide ample time to network with one another!  My favourite tour to date has to be at SCM (Supply Chain Management) – watching that distribution centre in action left me in awe and hearing about their best practices in sustainability and employee engagement – had me scratching notes frantically in an effort to learn all that I could.  And also, without a doubt, I am a solid supporter of the Roundtable Networking Academy Event that runs every fall – this is an incredible opportunity to connect with industry leaders on leadership principles, self-development and careers in the food sector and business in general.

As the new Director of Events, I am humbled by the opportunity to work with a talented Team of ladies with a variety of backgrounds and experience all relating to the food industry.  Together with the Board of Directors, we are looking forward to showcasing some interesting subject matter over the next couple of years and we welcome anyone with an interest in taking part to join in on the fun!  And yes, men are welcome too!

If you would like to know more about WFIM or are interested in joining us at one of our upcoming events, please feel free to drop me a line at events@wfim.ca!  We would love to have you participate!

Yes, volunteering truly broadens your perspectives and exposure to new things.  It provides you with an opportunity to enhance your team-building skills, to network with others and develop relationships, understand operational tactics, and to seek out answers perhaps in unfamiliar territories enhancing your learning experience.   It builds stronger organizations like WFIM, it strengthens companies through involvement of their staff, it enhances community development, and it lends to our own individual experiences, knowledge-base and self-confidence!

I encourage you to volunteer whether for a few minutes or a few years – you will be glad you did because getting involved brings so much more back to you in so many countless ways!

All the best!

Bren de Leeuw

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