Through his work at TELUS, volunteer leader Stephen Deedes-Vincke inspires others to give where they live.
By Sarah Fox
When Stephen Deedes-Vincke recruited John McDermott to his team, he noticed that he left work early most Wednesdays. After some time, Stephen caved; he had to know where John would disappear to during those days.
Stephen learned that John had been going to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB), where he and a group of TELUS employees—led by him—helped sort through food donations. Intrigued by this act of generosity, Stephen was quick to accept John’s invitation to join the outing next time around.
This would be Stephen’s first exposure to volunteerism, an event that would ultimately change his approach to life. It introduced him to a new way of approaching charity: instead of donating money, he could donate his time. “I got in his car, he drove me to the food bank, and since then I never looked back,” Stephen says of riding with John that first day to the food bank.
For Stephen, volunteering with the GVFB shed light on issues facing people in his own community and filled him with a sense of purpose. “It’s a bit like coffee or something,” he explains. “There’s an adrenaline rush with everybody there—you’re amongst people that you know or don’t know, but we all work as a team with a common goal.”
When John decided to make a move to Toronto, Stephen knew he wanted to continue his volunteer work; he had become deeply passionate about the role and supporting the food bank. As he puts it, working there gives him the ability to address the global issue of food security on a local level. “I know it’s Vancouver and we live in a developed world, but I think I’m indirectly trying to help a bigger problem in the world. I think everybody has a right to water and a right to food.”
With John’s blessing, Stephen took the lead after his departure.
Since then, he has grown the team, receiving so much interest from employees that he has had to connect them to the food bank directly. He also encourages others to pursue the causes they hold close to them—a TELUS-wide attitude brought to life by TELUS Days of Giving, a four week stretch between May and June put aside for employees to participate in volunteer activities organized by the company.
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, TELUS is aiming to volunteer a million hours beginning with this year’s TELUS Days of Giving and is challenging all Canadians to pledge one hour of their time to volunteer in their own communities.
This is an especially busy time for Stephen. This year he is organizing eight sessions, with a total of 200 TELUS volunteers giving three hours each to the food bank, adding up to a whopping 600 hours of volunteer work. “That’s just for the food bank,” Stephen says. “There are literally hundreds and hundreds of other activities that we at TELUS are encouraged to sign up for. It’s actually such a part of our culture that it’s in our DNA now.”
A point of pride for Stephen, his work at the food bank—through both TELUS Days of Giving and by running monthly volunteer sessions—has inspired other employees to take leadership roles themselves. One of his most dedicated volunteers is now running his own session once-a-month, doubling the contribution to the food bank.
As the ripple effect of this work bellows out, Stephen reflects not only on the value this opportunity has had on his professional life, but the way it has influenced his personal life. “I’ve brought my kids to the food bank, and they loved it,” Stephen says. “I’m seeing them want to contribute to the community and do charitable work and volunteering—they weren’t doing that until I started at the food bank.” And for Stephen—as a parent and community change-maker—“that is the biggest win ever.”