Better With Age: Richmond’s Voluntary Sector Evolves and Matures
The City of Richmond was incorporated as a municipality on November 10th, 1879, and received its city designation on December 3rd, 1990. Richmond, just south of Vancouver, is made up of 17 islands that were built up and shaped by the Fraser River. The Fraser River has shaped the growth of the City; the rich delta soil provided by the river has been the basis of Richmond’s economy and industrial development. Richmond’s history is rooted in fishing, salmon, canning, boat building, agriculture (dairy and berry production), shipping, aviation, and in recent years, increasingly the manufacturing, service, and technological industries. The 2011 census, as of July 1, 2012, estimates the city’s population at 205,133, representing a percentage change of 9.2% from 2006. Richmond is the fourth most populous municipality in the Greater Vancouver region, after Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby. A Snapshot of Richmond Demographics from Province of BC Statistics and the 2006 & 2011 Census:  The 2011 Census reports the population of Richmond to be 190,473; however, the report misses some people, and double counts others. Statistics Canada publishes an estimate of the undercount a few years after each census. The City uses an undercount-adjusted population as the baseline population and thus the adjusted City estimate of Richmond’s population is 205,133.
- 18 percent of the population is aged 17 or under;
- 12 percent of the population is aged 65 or over;
- The median age has increased from 40.7 in 2006 to 42.1 in 2011;
- The population aged 55-64 has seen the most growth;
- The population of Richmond, like Metro Vancouver and Canada, is aging.
- Over 125 different ethnic origins
- Chinese is the most commonly reported ethnic origin, with 47% of the population sharing this background
- Immigrants make up 57.4% of the population
Volunteer Richmond Information Services
In 1972, a small group of individuals connected with Richmond Savings Credit Union started a community information services program in the cloakroom of the Credit Union’s main branch, and in 1976, The Chamber of Commerce and the United Way supported the Executive Director and Board of Directors in the development of the Richmond Volunteer Centre. By 1986, the Information Centre and Volunteer Centre were merged and became the Richmond Information Volunteer Centre Society, which later became Richmond Connections (1994) and then Volunteer Richmond Information Services (2001). When Richmond became a venue city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, VRIS, in partnership with the City of Richmond, delivered the 2010 Information & Volunteer Program. VRIS was involved in running a community information booth at Richmond Centre and coordinating volunteers for the City’s 2010-related special events leading up to and during the Games. The highlight of these was the Richmond O Zone, which attracted 500,000 visitors over the course of 17 memorable days. During the course of the program more than 40,000 volunteer hours were contributed and it left behind a legacy of volunteer engagement. As of June 2013, Volunteer Richmond and the Richmond Community Foundation embarked on a bold new collaborative initiative: Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives. In the coming years, the two organizations hope to leverage their strength as capacity builders to transform the giving landscape in Richmond – the giving of both volunteer time and financial resources. Volunteer Richmond Information Services is a multi-service agency with the following programs and services:
- Volunteer and Information and Referral Centre
- Leadership Richmond
- Seniors Community Support Services
- Richmond Christmas Fund
- Child Care Resource and Referral
The work of the volunteer and information centre allows community organizations to better help those in need through the following activities:
- Our Volunteer Centre provides essential services to maximize the impact that volunteers make in the community.
- Potential volunteers can find volunteer opportunities on Volunteer Richmond!, an online volunteer opportunities database available at www.volunteerrichmond.ca.
- We hold regular training, workshops, and conferences on volunteer management to help non-profit organizations involve volunteers effectively and creatively.
- Volunteer Ambassadors deliver presentations and attend community events promoting volunteerism and providing information on volunteer opportunities in the community.
- VRIS helps connect people with information about the community resources available to them through information & referral, directories, and brochures.
- VRIS produces the Richmond Community Services and Low-Income Resources online directories, as well as a directory for seniors.
- Our staff and volunteers handled over 5,800 inquiries for community information, and distributed more than 25,000 brochures to the public.
- Our online Directories were accessed and utilized more than 100,000 times last year.
- Thanks to a partnership with The Richmond Review, VRIS produced the 11th edition of the Richmond Seniors Directory and distributed 18,000 free copies to seniors in Richmond.
We are dedicated to developing and offering training and programs that address the needs of the community and provide meaningful tools and resources to build stronger communities. Please visit our website for more information on our other programs and services.
As indicated in our 2009 report, the population aged 55-64 has seen the highest level of growth. This growth has not changed since 2009, with 13% of Richmond’s population being 65 and older. At VRIS we are finding ways to engage with seniors in our community, not only through volunteering opportunities but also through services provided.
Richmond Better at Home
In July 2013, we were named Richmond’s Better at Home lead agency. Better at Home is a program aimed at helping seniors live in their own homes by providing simple non-medical support services delivered through local non-profit organizations using a number of paid workers and volunteers. Funded by the Province of British Columbia and managed by the United Way of the Lower Mainland, the Better at Home program exists to reduce isolation, enhance mobility, and support independence among BC’s multicultural seniors population. Richmond Better at Home offers three services to local seniors: transportation, friendly visiting, and light housekeeping. These programs allow seniors to remain independent without being isolated. The program not only provides services for seniors who require them, but also to individuals who want to volunteer. Both the transportation and friendly visiting programs are delivered with volunteers. Volunteer drivers transport seniors to and from medical appointments and recreational activities. Friendly visitors offer social interaction and support to seniors, by visiting them in their homes. Volunteers and seniors are matched based on similar interests and backgrounds. Our most recent evaluation had a comment from a senior indicating that they have gone through a lot, and really need this service. Volunteers in both these programs have mainly been seniors. The population is aging, not only for seniors who require services but also from seniors who are newly retired and want to give back to their community. The light housekeeping service will be offered in collaboration with a senior-serving company. This is a partnership we are looking forward to as it shows the strength from both a company and a non-profit working together to provide seniors with the ability to stay at home longer. We are supporting seniors’ healthy aging and the opportunity to stay connected to their community.
Richmond Caring Companies
Corporate social responsibility is not a new concept. More and more companies are recognizing the value of giving back to their community. Companies acknowledge that it is not just about donating money but also about providing employer-supported volunteer programs. Many companies are engaged in giving back to their community. What they may not have is a formalized program and standards that can assist them in creating a program. VRIS noticed in Richmond the many caring companies that support local non-profits, with many more wanting to support but not knowing how. Therefore, back in November 2011, VRIS launched its Richmond Caring Companies program. The program helps local businesses create charitable initiatives and programs. The Richmond Caring Company program is a resource for companies looking to build and expand effective employee volunteer programs. The program brings together local companies to share their inspiring practices as well as learn best practices. The program culminates each year in June with the Day of Caring, a service project for all participating companies where they can invite their staff and family to volunteer together. VRIS assists companies in creating an employer supported volunteer program and discusses ways on how to engage employees. Most of all, all companies have an opportunity to network with each other and gain visibility for their leadership and excellence.
The Challenge and Opportunities Ahead
The voluntary sector is one that is vibrant. As a sector, the work we do helps communities and, most importantly, it impacts people. The challenge ahead for many non-profits is to do more with less. As funding is ever changing, non-profits need to find creative ways to show the impact they make as well as work in collaboration and combine resources. One area where we see growth is in the use of technology. Technology is changing rapidly and non-profit organizations need to find ways to utilize the technology that is available. VRIS provides high-quality training, and will be looking at ways to offer our training in web-based formats to reach out to organizations that may not be able to attend training in person. We also see more opportunities to customize training for non-profits and provide organizations with recruitment, screening, and interviewing support. Richmond has a strong sense of community and there are many individuals who give their time to assist in different volunteer opportunities, and when people mobilize to help people, the definition of the word “community” is fully realized. Bonds are created and form remarkably strong circles of support. VRIS is playing a vital role in this regard by being at the centre of bringing Richmond together. There are unprecedented opportunities for strengthening Richmond’s community spirit, and VRIS will continue to develop and strengthen its existing programs, looking towards the future for creative ways to bolster community partnerships and support volunteerism in Richmond.