Every day, around 9 a.m., Nicole walks into the Campaign Life Coalition office in Toronto, sits down at her desk, turns on her computer and starts to take on the tasks that were assigned to her by the office manager. Updating the database and sorting through petitions are usual day-to-day responsibilities, but as a certified graphic designer and experienced photographer, she’s also designed handouts and conference booklets for various events. On Feb. 10, she celebrated 18 years with CLC. She started off because she wanted to gain computer skills and to give back to the church. But more importantly, because she disagrees with the pro-abortion culture; as she says, “I’m glad my mother decided to give me life!”
Nikki, as most in the office call her, is one of countless volunteers, who over the years, have donated their talents, skills, and efforts to CLC and the work that it does.
Bruna is also one of CLC’s long-time volunteers who has been helping out for 20 years. She got involved because of her strong beliefs in the sanctity of life and she was concerned with the rising influence of abortion, euthanasia and the anti-family movement. “Volunteering with CLC gives me a sense of purpose and duty especially to a cause which I support so strongly. It also gives me an inner satisfaction that cannot be replaced or duplicated by other work or leisure activities.” When asked to describe her experience in one word, she used the word “meaningful.”
Volunteerism is the cornerstone of many political and cultural movements. It is no different for Campaign Life, which was founded in 1978 by a handful of people who wanted to do something to reverse Pierre Trudeau’s 1969 abortion law which by the late 1970s, had resulted in more than 60,000 abortions annually. The first group of Campaign Lifers were ordinary Canadians who decided to take on this mission in addition to their existing careers and responsibilities to their families. Over the years, a handful turned into dozens, and that later turned into hundreds and thousands across Canada doing what they could for the pro-life cause.
In CLC’s political work, its network of volunteers have been at the core of every election campaign. Over the years, CLC volunteers have been involved in by-elections, leadership campaigns, nomination meetings, door-to-door canvassing, phone calling and much more. Most CLC riding contacts are volunteers. They provide valuable information from their local riding about candidate meetings and other on-the-ground information that the national office could not obtain from Toronto or Ottawa. Additionally, they meet with their elected officials to discuss upcoming legislation, encourage candidates to fill out CLC questionnaires, and help organize grassroots pro-life efforts in the community.
Kaylyn, who now volunteers with CLC’s elections team, first contacted CLC at the request of her mother so that she had something to do during the summer break. “I enjoyed working at CLC so much that I came back the following summer as a student intern,” she said. After graduating college and working as a legal assistant for a while, she credits her time with CLC for becoming “more confident than ever before.”
Leo has been dropping by the CLC head office a few months a year for the past ten years. He is the office’s handyman, replacing light fixtures, helping out with any office repairs and almost always attends CLC Toronto’s activist meetings. “It’s for a great cause and you work with really nice people. It is God’s work that one is doing and as long as I am able, I plan to keep doing it”
Andrew and Amanda have been volunteering once a week for about two years say they learn something new all the time. “It’s also a good opportunity to get something useful done, which might otherwise not get done,” Amanda said. Andrew, whose parents have been long-time pro-life activists and supporters, knew some people in the movement and after going to the National March for Life in Ottawa, thought he could help out.
Deny Dieleman, CLC’s Toronto office manager, who oversees the volunteers is convinced that they do more than just help out. “They are the backbone of our work. Without their help, their dedication, their time commitment, their ongoing ‘yes’ to the pro-life cause, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do. Their level of commitment is also very motivating to the rest of the staff.”
She tells the story of Julie, a volunteer who recently contacted CLC asking if she could help sell Christmas Cakes, one of CLC’s largest fundraisers during the Christmas season. Over the past year, she has become CLC’s top cake-seller, bringing in thousands of dollars in cake sales and donations. “She does this because she believes in the mission, and she’s always grateful to help out,” added Dieleman.
Ed is another volunteer who is irreplaceable. For the last few years he’s been driving around the Greater Toronto Area, picking up Coins for Life boxes from local churches that participate in the annual campaign.
Similar to Julie and Ed, Bernadette’s contribution to CLC also takes place outside the office. Bernadette has been a long-time phone caller, contacting supporters about upcoming events, clergy luncheons, and activists meetings. She often makes these calls during her lunch break or in the evening after work.
“I thank God for all these wonderful people who continue to give of themselves freely or whenever called upon,” said Jim Hughes, CLC national president. “The work of the pro-life movement never ends, and it doesn’t matter how qualified you think you are, or how great or small your skills may be, your contribution is always greatly appreciated.”
When asked what advice they would offer someone who is considering volunteering with CLC, even if it seems like an uphill battle, some of the current volunteers encouraged people to “give it a good try,” others said “don’t be shy.” Nikki sums up the CLC attitude very nicely when she says, “don’t be discouraged by the culture of death. Keep up the ‘good fight’ Keep on politicians’ backs about our cause, and help them choose life.”