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HELPERS: A village full of volunteers like Betty Laurin would spread a lot of cheer

Betty Laurin has volunteered for We Are The Villagers — a charity that helps children participate in extracurricular activities — for six years and shows no signs of stopping

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that is exactly why Betty Laurin joined We Are The Villagers as a volunteer six years ago.

We Are The Villagers is a charity that aims to help children from disadvantaged families participate in extracurricular activities by subsidizing registration fees, and the cost of equipment, lessons, mentoring and more.

The organization provides funding for children to play sports like hockey, soccer, baseball and take lessons in skating, swimming, gymnastics, playing a musical instrument, horseback riding, singing, dancing, and karate or Judo — you name it.

If there is something extracurricular that a child would like to pursue, We Are The Villagers will help them achieve their dreams.

Laurin happened into her volunteering role while looking for her own extracurricular activities in her retirement. After working as an educational assistant with the local school board for almost 29 years helping children became part of the fibre of her being.

When Laurin met Geoffrey Crompton, one of the co-founders of We Are The Villagers, she offered to help, and he invited her to come into the office.

“When you meet them you feel right at home,” says Laurin, who has worked for the organization in their office a few days a week ever since she first walked through their doors.

“It’s a wonderful thing to help the kids who can’t afford it,” says Laurin.

Fostering a positive attitude, and a healthy outlook for children translates into a more joyful family environment.

For Laurin, the mission of the charity permeates everything that they do for the children and the families they work with.

“They make you feel like family,” says Laurin.

Over the course of the pandemic, the organization recognized that families needed a different kind of help.

“We provided a lot of computers to families that needed them to go online,” says Laurin about providing technology for kids to learn from home when the lockdowns meant that children required a computer in order to learn.

“A lot of kids didn’t have a computer at home. Or you’ve got three kids and one computer. What are you going to do?”

With the help of RCT Technologies, and generous donations, We Are The Villagers have provided over 130 families with refurbished laptops.

“We Are The Villagers are a fantastic group and it’s amazing what we can do for the kids,” says Laurin.

Through the pandemic the organization offered online learning like babysitting and first-aid courses.

“With COVID, it’s been hard,” says Laurin, while listing all the opportunities available for children before the pandemic.

We Are The Villagers has supplied activity boxes for families assembled by the Wye Marsh and Tiny Township, and while that’s something, for Laurin, it’s the events that make all the difference.

Before COVID, there were fundraisers, galas, and a Christmas celebration that provides Laurin with the personal satisfaction of volunteering not only because they raise funds, but also because seeing the joy in the children’s faces is so rewarding.

“I get personal satisfaction of seeing all these kids being able to go out and do something,” says Laurin.

We Are The Villagers holds a Christmas fundraiser every year (except the last two). There’s a toy drive before the event that means all the kids receive gifts. This year they held the toy drive, but Santa had to stay in the North Pole to properly social distance.

Marshal Laurin, Betty’s husband, plays Santa. “My husband and I both do all the events that they have,” says Laurin.

“The kids can all get their pictures taken with Santa,” she says with a laugh remembering the Christmas events before the pandemic, “It’s wonderful.”

Marshal Laurin did play Santa this year for We Are The Villagers in their float in the Santa Claus parade in Waubaushene.

Like any of Santa’s elves, there’s no stopping the Laurins when it comes to spreading good cheer. The couple also volunteer with the Civitan Club in Midland where they have been helping with the Santa Claus parade for a little over 20 years now.

Laurin also volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul at the food bank where she refers people to We Are The Villagers.

“Anybody coming in for the food bank, of course, they’re in need,” says Laurin. “There’s such a need for people to get out and help one another especially in this time.”

The epitome of a committed volunteer is one that will not let a pandemic get in their way.

“As soon as this is all over,” says the determined volunteer referring to the pandemic, “I’ll be going back,” to volunteering with We Are the Villagers, the Civitan Club, and St. Vincent de Paul food bank.

We Are The Villagers is located at 486 Hugel Avenue in Midland. For more information about how you can access their services, become a service provider, or to donate, visit their website.