When Just Sayin’ Caledon reached out to Christine Gnass to talk about her community work with Caledon Meals on Wheels (CMOW) and other local organizations, the first thing she did was express surprise. Wondering why we had selected her for an interview, Christine humbly told us, “There are a lot of people in Caledon who do much more than I do.”
While it’s true Caledon is blessed with an abundance of community-spirited volunteers who do wonderful things for our town, today we are delighted to focus on Christine and share a little bit about what drives her to help.
Living in Terra Cotta for a number of years, Christine had left a large telecommunications company and was looking for opportunities to get involved. Partnering with friends and neighbours to help Le Tour de Terra Cotta, one of the largest annual local events, seemed like a good place to start.
Christine embraced Le Tour using her social media management expertise to help it reach a wider audience. Eventually she met and joined (now) Mayor Allan Thompson’s political campaign team. As well, around that time, the Director of Le Tour de Terra Cotta, also a CMOW Board member, introduced her to the Executive Director. Christine’s volunteer journey was now well underway.
She initially expected her volunteer efforts at CMOW would focus on increasing their social media reach. Indeed, she spent a significant amount of her time for 3 years doing just that. However, through an application process, CMOW received a grant to hire someone to expand fundraising efforts. Christine began working with the organization, over and above her volunteer time, 3 days a week to support to this initiative.
CMOW relies on close to 200 volunteers, cumulatively providing 6,000 hours of volunteer time each year, to provides a range of programs and services that promote nutrition, wellness, and social interaction. According to their website, more than 25,000 meals are prepared and delivered each year, almost 600 local seniors attend wellness programs and over 16,000 “wellness checks” occur annually. Clearly, CMOW has a huge mandate and the expertise of someone like Christine is invaluable.
Christine says, “I knew that working with CMOW I would have to help continue to build relationships with people in the community. Lots of conversations took place with lots of people and I got to know them on a personal level.”
Christine believes that it was this personal approach that benefitted not only CMOW, but ultimately her business too. Spending time with people, doing something she loved and helping an organization she believes in, provided her with yet another opportunity to give back. How? She offered to conduct a series of classes over 7 weeks, helping local small business owners learn how to make full use of social media to help support and grow their own business. The classes were offered for $300 per participant but all the money was donated to CMOW. The 15 business owners who took part received a taxable donation receipt. A “win-win”!
As Christine commented, living and working in a small town like Caledon, she feels it was building relationships with the community that helped programs like this, and her fundraising efforts, to succeed. She was able to share knowledge and expertise not only with CMOW but for them as well, all the while helping local business owners too.
Next up for Christine was a project involving at least 100 Women. Christine says: “I had watched 100 Women who Care pop up in other communities and I liked the concept. I really wanted to initiate one in Caledon but I was pretty busy. Then one day I saw a Facebook posting that someone was starting one in Caledon and immediately wondered how could I help.”
She connected with the Caledon branch founders that included Michele Newton, Barb O’Handley and Karen McDonald, offering to help them expand their reach through social media. Capitalizing on her extensive community building and social media connections, reaching out to the Mayor, Councillors, and others, the launch meeting of 100 Women Who Care Caledon saw more than 70 women attending.
“It was gratifying” Christine says, “to be able to see people that I had networked with and supported their business, in turn come out to support me in my efforts to help the 100 Women program. It was a real ‘pay it back’ moment!”
Christine has been involved for over a year now and feels 100 Women will only continue to grow, successfully giving back to the community through the various local charities it helps. Despite a recent move that will eventually see her living and volunteering in the Penetang area, Christine says she will continue to be involved in and support 100 Women.
In addition Christine volunteers her services and conducts social media classes through both Caledon Community Services (CCS) and through the Town of Caledon. And while she might feel that there are others who “do more” we’re pretty confident that Christine is an individual doing more than her fair share to help the residents of Caledon.
This won’t change she says, even with her aforementioned move. Christine, who is of French descent, plans to volunteer her time possibly reading with children or helping seniors in the predominately French community. Whatever she does, we know that in Christine Gnass, the spirit of helping others is strong and it’s likely both Penetang, and Caledon, that will reap the rewards!