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A lifetime of giving back

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Rosanna Balascio began volunteering at the Parkdale-High Park Ontario Early Years Centre 13 years ago.

As families arrive at the Parkdale-High Park Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) on a sunny Monday in April, they are welcomed by the friendly face of someone they have come to know well: Rosanna Balascio, a long-time volunteer at the Centre.

Each week, Rosanna takes the TTC Wheel-Trans from her west end neighbourhood to help out with the OEYC’s arts and crafts activities and participate in singing and reading with families.  

The Centre serves as a community hub in The Junction for local families with children ages 0-6. With free programming available on a drop-in basis six days a week, it is an essential destination for families seeking parenting support and a close connection with others in the neighbourhood.

The Centre welcomes volunteers from all backgrounds, some of whom have special needs like Rosanna, who experiences reduced mobility and gets around using a wheelchair.

“We all have capacity, and we can help in different ways,” says Fernando Lusvarghi, Volunteer Coordinator with the Centre. “Rosanna has had a positive impact on more people over the years than she can ever imagine.”

Staff work hard to create a sense of belonging where families and volunteers with different lived experiences can all come together in a supportive and positive environment. This commitment to inclusion teaches children empathy and acceptance and creates meaningful ways for volunteers to give back to their community.

“I like making art and reading stories,” Rosanna says, as she carefully cleans up the craft table in advance of story time.

Volunteers at the Centre assist with running the daily programming, organizing snacks for families and providing support to staff—all of which have a tremendous impact on the team.  “Our volunteers become part of our lives, part of our families,” Fernando says.

Looking to make an impact in your community? The Parkdale-High Park Ontario Early Years Centre is recruiting volunteers! All applicants must be over the age of 18. To learn more, click here