“Our goal within the volunteer services department is to make sure everyone who comes through our doors feels welcomed, valued and important,” Laluk says. “I can’t stress enough how important volunteers are to our organization. We rely on them to ensure that everyone feels supported.”
Laluk, 49, started working at St.Amant 13 years ago, after studying volunteer management at Red River College. Prior to that, she worked for more than 13 years supporting people with developmental disabilities.
That made joining the team at St.Amant, a not-for-profit that offers a wide range of programs and services to support Manitobans with developmental disabilities and autism, a natural fit. Laluk was drawn to the organization’s values, which include collaboration, hospitality, excellence and respect.
“I really like being part of a team that works really hard for individuals with disabilities and making sure they have a great quality of life,” she says. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, St.Amant relied on about 400 volunteers each week. Today, about 160 volunteers stay connected through virtual means to the people St.Amant supports.
Laluk and the three employees in her department check in regularly with volunteers to ensure their mental health and wellbeing.
Volunteers are invited to all in-house staff training that St.Amant offers, so that they can develop their skills and learn new ones. Volunteers are also included at staff recognition events so that their contributions can be highlighted as well. Laluk is an amazing manager, says Michelle Everton, senior manager of corporate services at St.Amant.
“She’s very humble and she’s really just a great living example of our organizational values,” Everton says. “She’s extremely caring and she’s got a really special way of figuring out someone’s passion or what they’re good at or what they bring to the world, and she creates whatever they need around them to make that shine. She’s just really special.”
Volunteer Manitoba recently announced that Laluk will receive the Barb Gemmell Catalyst Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management at its annual awards ceremony, which will be held virtually next month.
The award recognizes that the ability to inspire and influence volunteers, community partners, management and other staff is at the core of being a leader of volunteers, and is critical to the success of every volunteer program.
It is named for Barb Gemmell, a respected leader in volunteer resources management who was one of Laluk’s instructors and mentors at Red River College.
“Barb really is a pioneer in creating a path for us as volunteer managers, and recognizing we are a profession that brings a lot to an organization,” Laluk says. “To win an award named after her is a true honour and I’m really humbled.”
When talking about the recognition from Volunteer Manitoba, Laluk is quick to credit the staff and volunteers she works with.
“They are an inspiration to my growth as a manager and they all make me a better person,” she says. “This award is not just for me, it’s for all of us.”
Originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, August 16, 2021.
Written by Aaron Epp