Extended family project is a means for both those who need assistance, and those giving it, to learn and grow

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

It’s a win-win situation for both volunteers and those being assisted through the Extended Family Project.

“It’s two-way street,” said Eric Schmiedl, co-ordinator of the Operation Sharing outreach program. “They learn from each other.”

Founded over a decade ago, in recent years the program has been connecting teams of two or three volunteers with local citizens who may need help with math or literacy, or other services.

Recently volunteers assisted a Syrian refugee family living in Ingersoll by teaching them to speak English as a second language.

“The husband’s trade is carpentry and hopefully we can help him to get employment,” Schmiedl said.

Volunteers have also assisted a man with schizophrenia by spending time with him socially.

They also helped a man, who has undergone bariatric surgery, get to medical appointments and help with tasks such as purchasing groceries.

“His long-term goal is to be self-employed and hopefully they are helping him along his way there,” he said.

Most recently the EFP has teamed with OWL Distribution, who have been assisting residents of Indwell, an affordable housing project located in the former Harvey Woods building.

Volunteers from OWL have helped with many tasks including moving the residents of Indwell’s Blossom Park facility to its Harvey Woods apartments.

So far about 30 volunteers from OWL have volunteered with Indwell, with the company allowing employees to dedicate about an hour a week to the project on company time.

“EFP’s aim is not only to help people in poverty but to give volunteers insight into the world of impoverished people and those with other needs,” Schmiedl said. “And in many cases, people in poverty will be able to give back to the people helping them in a number of ways.”

Schmiedl said he is asking potential volunteers, including those in the corporate world, as well as people who may need assistance, to contact him at 519-539-3361.