When Renee Sanderson started Pay it Forward NWT, the group had a grand total of one member. Three years later, her group’s Facebook page has 1,217 members and 600 active volunteers.
“Really I’m kind of like the bridge between people who want to give and people who could use the things,” Sanderson said.
People in need contact her by phone or e-mail, and those who want to give their time or resources come together on the Facebook page to make it happen.
The list of projects run long. The group has put together coat drives, toy drives, care packages for homeless individuals and deliveries of baby baskets to the hospital for mothers in need. Most recently, the group fundraised for the recovery effort of four missing hunters in Fort Chipewyan, helping to make possible a planeload of groceries for the rescue team and family affected by the tragedy.
“Renee is amazing,” Pay it Forward NWT volunteer Donna Nash said of Sanderson. “When she decides to do it she does it, and she doesn’t rely on anyone else.”
Sanderson sees great need in Yellowknife, especially during the winter months. So far, she has gotten good feedback for her work. Specifically, she recalled an event where a youth expressed gratitude for a gift of shoes.
“He was just like, ‘Oh this is something I needed and I was kind of stressing because I didn’t know how I was going to get a new pair of shoes,’” she said.
Sanderson started Pay it Forward NWT as an informal network to encourage others to give back to the community. Now she has begun to reach out to other service organizations. In April the group met with the YWCA Yellowknife, Centre for Northern Families, Salvation Army Yellowknife, SideDoor Youth Centre and Safe Harbour Day Shelter to see how her group could support these organizations and fill some of the gaps that exist.
For Salvation Army Yellowknife executive director Dusty Sauder, collaboration is key.
“As soon as you silo and you don’t partner with others, you limit the amount of good that you can do with your resources,” he said. “At times we’re unable to do that and we have to do our own thing. But when you can share and you can work together you’re bound to get far more done than you ever could without working with other folks.”