Having been granted a scholarship to attend the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Congress, Helen Choi wants to use the knowledge and connections she acquired there to help the food bank that once helped her.
Choi, originally from South Korea, has been living in Parkdale with her three-year-old daughter for the past two years. It was when Choi was in need herself that she became acquainted with the Parkdale Community Food Bank.
“As a low-income sole support mother I had to use the food bank,” she explained. She was taken with the organization, the clients, volunteers and the good work being done by the food bank in South Parkdale.
“The people there are like a family. They are so funny, you will catch the volunteers singing and dancing while they are cleaning,” Choi said. “Even though the food bank has its share of troubles, the people there really come together like a real community.”
As is often the case with food banks, The Parkdale Community Food Bank was struggling to raise the money to meet the needs of their nearly 3,000 clients and Choi felt compelled to help.
In 2010, Choi attended Humber College to study volunteer management and as part of her schooling, she decided to do her work placement with the Parkdale Community Food Bank. The placement lasted from October 2011 to April 2012 and she worked with the food bank coordinating volunteers and assisting the executive director at the time.
After her placement ended, Choi said she stayed on at the food bank as a member of its Board of Directors. It is in that capacity she decided to apply to the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The award for free registration was given out by JMG Solutions out of Mississauga.
Choi applied via YouTube in a clip explaining she wanted to attend the conference in order to gain the skills and contacts needed to continue to support the food bank.
“The (food bank) has such a big need for help all the time,” she said. “Now that I am on the board, I see even more the need.”
The AFP Congress took place in Toronto, Nov. 19 to 21 and Choi said her aim was to network with seasoned professionals and learn about emerging trends in the field of fundraising.
“I want to bring this information back to the food bank and help the food bank, which will in turn help the members and the users and the community,” Choi said.
During the conference Choi said she learned a great deal about grant writing, strategizing, board engagement and event co-ordination.
“I feel so energized and rejuvenated,” Choi said.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents 30,000 members in more than 200 chapters in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and China working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research and education.