Written by Tangerine
Thursday, July 14th, 2022
Throughout the last decade, a sea of orange-shirted humans has descended upon the rural setting of YMCA Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre for a day in the country. But it's not a day spent splashing in the pool or playing Capture the Flag. The visitors are there to be put to work.
They paint, they build, they dig. They plant and water and weed. Whatever it is that needs doing that year. And in the course of a day, the small volunteer army of Tangerine employees and their loved ones accomplishes what would normally take weeks of work for the 263-acre property's two-person maintenance team.
“Every year, the group does a huge amount of work on our property to help us get ready for summer camp," says Marissa Straatsma, the general manager at Cedar Glen.
“If I could calculate out the hours and match the staffing dollars to it, it would be thousands and thousands in just a day."
Giving back is a big part of the culture at Tangerine – with tens of thousands of volunteer hours given over 25 years – and employees are encouraged to connect with one or more of the company's community partners through its Project Forward initiative. The annual outing to Cedar Glen is one of the most popular occasions for volunteers both new and experienced.
“It's a great opportunity to give back to the community and meet different people in the organization," says Stanley Yu after a day spent building picnic tables and planting seedlings in the organic garden. Yu, a new hire with Tangerine's Inspire program, had just joined the company that week, so volunteering was one of his first opportunities to meet the team.
“It's been great to see all the friendly faces," he says.
“After having friendly conversations with them, it is easier to approach them in the office."
This year's volunteer day happened on June 23rd, a gloriously sunny early summer's day, with about 100 volunteers, who began their shift gathered in the centre's outdoor amphitheatre – a structure built by previous volunteers.
“We helped build the amphitheatre, and the bench built into the hill near the firepit," says Wendy Archard, a Tangerine employee who still remembers working at the first Cedar Glen outing in 2013. “Coming back now years later, they were staining the bench again due to wear and tear. It was just nice to see they made some additions to it over the years. And it's nice to see it used and, you know, lovingly worn out."
What keeps her coming back?
“It's our culture to give back," Archard says. “So when we volunteer, it's because our satisfaction is not just from the monetary rewards; it's also in giving. Giving our time, our efforts, and talent.
“When you work at a bank, you don't need to get dirty or handy, but being able to do something different is a nice change."
But the true value of the work comes long after the volunteers leave to go back to their desk jobs.
“I think the pandemic has really highlighted the need to get outside and to connect with nature for a lot of people," Straatsma says. “Kids, groups and campers who come here have that chance to disconnect and reconnect. They disconnect from their day-to-day activities and from their devices, and reconnect with others in the outdoors."
For some young people, it's their first experience of summer camp. “We have lots of kids who come to the camp on buses from the city. And when they get off the bus, they're like: 'Wow, where am I?' Because they're just not used to so much open space."
Volunteering has its perks for both the volunteers and the direct beneficiaries. It's certainly a culture that Tangerine is committed to sustaining.