Above: Jayme, right, outside Central Public School in Brantford.

National Volunteer Week Feature 

FRIDAY, APR. 29, 2022

Volunteers bring a wealth of varied and diverse experiences to enhance student learning, well-being and belonging in our school communities. They are role models and motivators, generous with their time and skills. To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we’re featuring a daily profile of one of the many volunteers making a difference in Grand Erie. Thank you to all our volunteers!

Above: Jayme Wilson

Volunteer Profile:

Jayme Wilson

Volunteer role: 

Behind-the-scenes coordinator of the food program that gets hot, healthy meals into 11 Brantford schools to ensure students’ physical needs are met, enabling a successful day of learning.

How it started: 

Jayme is a driving force behind the Downtown Central Neighbourhood Association (DCNA), comprised of members of the community volunteering to effect positive change in the area. In 2016, the DCNA met with the principal at Central Public School along with parents in the school community to find ways to bridge gaps in support for families. A number of initiatives followed, including annual events, fundraisers, opportunities to work with first responders to foster positive relationships outside of crisis situations, and the creation of a community garden that provides learning opportunities and fresh produce during the growing season. It also put the wheels in motion to get the food program established. Following the shutdowns of the pandemic – with the combined efforts of many volunteers and partner organizations – the Gifts of the Heart food program was born, and has grown to a five-days-a-week operation, with pantry bags available for students to take home for the weekend. It is currently operating in 11 local schools, with 855 meals provided a week, and growing still.

Why she does it:

“Food insecurity has always been an issue within our community, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made that issue even more prominent with the impacts of inflation, many people losing income due to lockdowns, the housing market skyrocketing and limited rental properties available within people’s budgets. Many families are suffering. The pandemic also meant local food programs paused or shut down completely. We’d seen food programs benefit schools before COVID, and following the pandemic, the need for them is greater than ever.”

Learning, Leading and Inspiring:

“Each and every volunteer at the DCNA believes that with a common goal, we can move mountains. We believe in fostering and building up the next generation to continue that momentum for this community. We want to celebrate the wins and remind them of the wonderful community they live in, even in times when it feels like there aren’t a lot of positive things happening. This program wouldn’t exist without our partners – Our Kitchen Brantford (OKB), the Salvation Army, B.L.’s pantry and food truck, and all of our dedicated volunteers. These efforts are for the community, and the community is what makes it all possible.”

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