Christina Shearme is the coordinator for Community Network. (Special to The News)

Christina Shearme is the coordinator for Community Network. (Special to The News)

COMMUNITY NETWORK: Youth learning the rewards of volunteering

Young people in the community came together to make several kind gestures possible this past year

By Carter Hugill/Special to The News

The Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows Community Network is a table meeting on the second Tuesday of each month with service clubs, non-profits, businesses, agencies, city services, and community members.

It is the goal of the Community Network to support efforts that add to our communities well being in creative and innovative ways.

The Community Network is proud to support the efforts of uPlan – a group of motivated and enthusiastic youth in our community. Below is a glimpse into the fantastic work the uPlan committee has initiated over the past year.

Volunteerism is distinctly different from a paying job, and yet in many ways, exactly the same.

Work is done to achieve pay. One works, and they are compensated.

Adversely, volunteering is done with the simple goal of improvement. To improve an organization, a community, the world, or the life of just one person.

It is humanity’s goodness that makes it work.

Those who volunteer, however, are compensated exactly the same as those who work a paying job. It just takes a different form.

Whether the smile on someone’s face, or a plant blooming in a community garden, the reward is as sweet as any paycheque.

This compensation, while wonderful, lacks the tangible quality of currency.

It is not often that there is objective proof of the effect of volunteering.

That is why a note, left attached to a tree at the 2021 Grad Walk, brought its organizers so much joy.

The note read: “To the organizers, sponsors and volunteers who put up the decorations along 224th St commemorating the recent high school graduates, you have inadvertently beautified our downtown and made the area more pleasant for the general public – likewise reminding our community to celebrate the accomplishments of its members; an honourable notion that I hope to see more of in the future!”

It stands as a stark reminder of why the uPlan volunteer group does their work.

The project, which was created to celebrate the graduates who had otherwise COVID-subdued ceremonies, culminated in a beautifully decorated main city strip. Windows were decorated in the theme of a Maple Ridge high school and adorned with the names of its departing students.

It represents just one of uPlan’s community-oriented ventures.

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The group, consisting of work-hungry youth from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, kicked off the year with a Christmas-themed challenge: find the most festive and extravagantly decorated home.

Nominations of neighbours, friends, and well-known homes flooded the uPlan inbox.

The group organized and compiled the suggestions into a list of 28 homes. Then, the voting opened. During this time, the group tackled running the Christmas kettles for the Salvation Army. Not long after, the votes were counted, and the winners announced.

As the Christmas season came to a close, the group decided to do something to help seniors who had become disconnected from family due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

February brought the festivities of Valentine’s Day, and inspired uPlan to create Valentine’s cards to be delivered to care homes across Maple Ridge. More than 100 cards were hand-made and delivered, bringing some connection to those rapidly losing it.

Succeeding this, it was time for a project that every member of the community could be involved with: a scavenger hunt.

Faced with the challenge of organizing it, the group created an interactive website allowing users to scan codes and take pictures of their finds.

The group even created a promotional advertisement to garner interest in the project.

The hunt managed to attract nearly 200 participants, creating many entries for the prize. Some participants even messaged the group to express the enjoyment it had brought in an otherwise dreary year.

One example is a message received from a participant detailing how she completed the hunt with her disabled daughter, and was so glad the hunt was inclusive to all.

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After the successful scavenger hunt, uPlan moved on to its next project: a virtual art gallery.

Once again employing the website, a museum-themed interactive gallery was made.

uPlan advertised the gallery, and opened their site to submissions. Artwork from youth poured in, generating enough content in just two weeks to fill the gallery.

This new medium allowed for other types of art, as well. Singers, pianists, and animators were given the opportunity to submit examples of their works, too.

The diverse and exciting gallery was made live on the first day of youth week. The gallery also allowed viewers to vote on their favourite pieces, culminating in awards being presented to the three winners. Despite running for just a short time, the gallery garnered more than 100 votes.

For their final project, uPlan decided it would be fitting to honour the graduates whose hard work could not be celebrated as greatly as in a typical year.

Together with local businesses, the hard-working youth decorated the downtown strip with the theme colours of the Maple Ridge high schools and printed the names of its graduating students on the street side windows. The group even created a Snapchat filter, which proudly displayed the name of its user on the photos. Graduating students excitedly explored the strip, taking photos in front of their school’s window.

This final event summarizes well what the group strives to achieve, connecting with its community, whilst simultaneously – if accidentally – beautifying it.

Despite a difficult year, the uPlan group was able to achieve this. Carrying the kind note with them, the group now eagerly awaits to find what projects the next year will bring.

If you would like to learn more about either uPlan or the Community Network please reach out to the coordinator Christina Shearme at info@resourceyourcommunity.com or visit the website at www.resourceyourcommunity.com.

Any interested community members are encouraged to join the virtual monthly meetings to find out about all of the amazing work being done behind the scenes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

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