News & Stories

ONFE’s Seniors in School initiative, a throwback to our beginnings

By Melissa McGurk McNeil, ONFE Director of Advancement  

ottawareads, ottawa network for education, onfe
Photo credit: Anne-Marie Bouchard Photography

As 2018 comes to a close, we are reflecting on the 25th year of ONFE’s Volunteers in Education program. Did you know that this program was introduced in 1993 with the name Seniors Volunteering in Education? At the time, the newly created initiative matched 35 seniors with 15 schools across Ottawa, and did not have the same scope as it does now.

Today, our larger Ottawa Volunteers in Education program places 1,500 individual volunteers in 152 schools annually. This year we are returning to our roots, thanks to a grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation. This grant allows ONFE to recruit, screen, and train senior adult volunteers and find them meaningful volunteer opportunities in Ottawa schools to support students of all abilities. Though we are still in the early stages of this initiative, we have already recruited 73 seniors volunteers.

I was fortunate to sit in on a discussion among a group of seniors who are participating in this new project. Among the 25 people in attendance, there was over 50 years of volunteer experience in the room. Volunteers shared the joy they felt every week when they entered the school and heard children calling their name. Participants also shared their challenges and supported one another with tips on how to engage older students who do not want individual support.

“Best investment possible. Put a dime of effort in and get a dollar of pleasure back!” — Roger, a volunteer in the program

Every year, ONFE must recruit 800 new volunteers to support teachers and students in OCDSB schools. If you or someone you know would like to get involved, please contact Anne or Lee-Ann. To find out more about our volunteer programs and the many benefits of volunteering, check out our website:


Know a participant in the program with a story to share? Get in touch with us!


ottawa volunteers in education, ottawa network for education, ONFE
Photo credit: Anne-Marie Bouchard Photography



  1. Hello Heather, Lee Ann and Anne,

    The “new” initiative of Seniors Volunteering in Education certainly brought back many memories of those initial years, Even the news that a grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation will allow for more specific recruitment, screening and placing of seniors within the schools reminds me that, during the very first year of our program, it was the very first foundation that provided financial support towards the development of marketing and recruitment tools! It is a delight to read and be reminded that the dedication of so many individuals have provided such important support for the educational journey of thousands of students in this city. Thanks for your dedication, hard work and caring commitment during so many years! Have a wonderful summer! Sarah

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