Each day during National Volunteer Week, we will share a story about one of our dedicated volunteers. We are so grateful for the commitment and passion of all volunteers in our great city. Thank you for everything you do!
Today we are profiling Jill Petrovic, who has been part of the Speakers Bureau for one year.
How did you decide to get involved with the Speakers Bureau?
I was inspired by an impact speaker named Heather. Her story was personal, moving and made me genuinely care about a cause that I hadn’t considered until that moment. I didn’t know it was possible to give back in this way to the community and that people might be interested in my own story.
Why do you volunteer with the Speakers Bureau?
In a way, my family has been saved by United Way – particularly through the programs and the agencies that they fund.
How has the Speakers Bureau benefitted you?
I find it sometimes challenging, but more often therapeutic, to connect with various audiences and share my story. It leaves you vulnerable and open to judgment, but not once did I feel judged at a speaking engagement. It was overwhelmingly positive. People give you feedback during your speech (through their facial expressions and their emotions), and then afterward in conversation. I find it both rewarding and empowering to know that I’ve reached another person and that they care. This experience provides a great deal of reassurance for me on a personal level.
What is your favourite part about the Speakers Bureau?
I love the surprises I’ve encountered along the way. Having the opportunity to speak to an audience I’ve never connected with before, or feeling a sense of belonging with organizations all over the City is exciting. Large and small audiences, intimate environments, and more formal… each speaking opportunity is an adventure.
What impact has volunteering had on you?
It’s made me feel like I belong in this community, that I’m supported and valued. It’s introduced me to people that I might never have gotten to connect with otherwise. It’s made me more confident in speaking out about issues that matter. It’s given me a feeling of pride and a strong sense of accomplishment.
Can you describe a specific experience you’ve had that was particularly impactful?
A few times, there were members of the audience who were wiping away tears during a speech. At first, I felt uncomfortable about that. But the entire experience has helped me realize that it’s okay to talk openly about hard things. It’s okay for people to feel moved or emotional about a difficult topic. It’s okay for my voice to crack on occasion if my own emotions are at the surface that day. A show of tears in the audience doesn’t mean I’ve ruined their day… it just means they’ve been reached and that they care. It gave me a reason to connect afterward, which often led to hugs and laughs. All good things.
What advice would you give someone who is considering volunteering?
Go ahead… do it! This is not something you’re going to regret.