BY: KRISTINA RAMCHARRAN
In recognition of those using their spare time to create betterment in the community, the Volunteering Service Awards were created. The awards aim at recognizing individuals who have taken part in various volunteering efforts to help with community resources, the youth and the elderly.
The Citizens for the Advancement of Community Development Organization, also known as CACD received commemoration at the Volunteer Service Awards Ceremony for their outstanding work in community volunteering. The ceremony took place on Thursday, April 5th at the Oasis Convention Centre.
Ron Cunningham, founder and executive director of the CACD charitable organization was thrilled when recognized for his organization’s volunteering efforts, and instead of using the award as a moment to bask in glory, he used it to send an important message to the community on why volunteering is a necessary part of society.
The idea of volunteering in the community first came to Cunningham in 2002 while he was back in his home country of Jamaica and felt the need to enrich the community by providing volunteer support. A few years later, something happened that changed Cunningham’s view on volunteering when he realized it was also needed right in his current hometown of Toronto.
“In 2005, when Jane Creba got shot while walking on Yonge St., that whole situation struck a chord with me,” said Cunningham. He then decided to start his own accounting practice to allow for a more flexible schedule to begin having more community involvement. “At the same time I said why am I running off to Jamaica to work with inner-city kids when the same thing is going on in my own backyard,” he said.
After putting in the continuous effort and work into the CACD organization, Cunningham was recognized by the mayor of Mississauga for his efforts and was provided a space at the Mississauga Valley Community Center, courtesy of the city. Prior to receiving a permanent space, Cunningham said, “Most of my efforts were done in schools, running workshops, and renting space from the YMCA,” as the organization did the best it could do with its funding.
So, what exactly do the CACD and its volunteers do for the community? Cunningham said that although the organization focuses on a wide range of aspects, the youth target group is the most important as they are a developing group in society.
Working with middle school and high school students is very important to Cunningham as it helps expose them to the community and civic involvement. “We would offer things like music, art, dance, photography, and nutrition,” he added on the various extra-curricular activities the organization would provide to the youths. He noted that this was especially helpful to the many parents who were working multiple jobs or were in situations where they didn’t have the time and money to enroll their children in these activities.
High school students were also coached on leadership mentoring, and the CACD was always there to provide them with ways to complete their community hours needed to graduate. The CACD continues to help students by providing them with these opportunities, while at the same time building a stronger base by increasing their team of volunteers.
Ron Cunningham and his wife Sonia Cunningham were each awarded pins and certificates for their fifteen years of service, while Wes Mackenzie, Marva Dennis, and Catherine Soplet received pins and certificates for their five years of service with CACD. As recipients of the Volunteer Service Awards, they were few among others who have been or will be awarded for their volunteering efforts across Ontario, with ceremonies taking place across the province from March till June.
As for the importance of volunteering, Cunningham said it’s what makes the difference. “For me personally, it affords me the opportunity to give back.” He added, “In general it provides anyone who volunteers, young or old, an opportunity to gain confidence and to make a difference. And I do believe that volunteering does provide wide opportunity.”
Cunningham also said that volunteering organizations like CACD run off of charitable donations and volunteer help. The CACD accepts any form of support and more details about their organization can be found on their website cacdcanada.org.