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Brett McNeil

Brett McNeil
(Photo by Jessica Rediker)

Fitting in Giving Back

As a young professional with a busy career, Brett McNeil knew he wanted to give back to his community, but worried that he wouldn’t be able to commit to a long-term volunteer position. He works as a co-ordinator of network relations and programs for the Canadian Digital Media Network, a Communitech initiative. He also has his own branding and lifestyle website - - and an active social life.

That’s why Reading Buddies turned out to be the perfect opportunity for him to share his time. Reading Buddies pairs adults and teens with early readers for reading practice and literacy activities. The group meets in the evening once a week for an hour, and each session runs for about 8 weeks. Volunteers can choose a seasonal session that fits best with their personal and professional life, and take a few months off before signing up again.

"It’s exactly one hour, once a week, and you get to help mold a kid’s brain. How cool is that?" Brett says.

He works downtown and lives in mid-town, so location was also a factor. It’s just a 10-minute walk from work to Central Library for him, but Reading Buddies is offered at all five Kitchener Public Library locations, so it’s convenient both for volunteers and for parents and caregivers who are bringing their children to the program.

He found out about Reading Buddies through Pitch In, a Communitech event where tech leaders "pitch" volunteer opportunities to the audience on behalf of local non-profit organizations. (Thanks to Calvin Chu, founder and CEO of Palette Gear, who pitched on the library’s behalf!)

"What I was super thrilled to see was a diverse group of children,” Brett says. “Some kids would power through a book, and some were just learning how to read."

"I got a sense of accomplishment from volunteering, and the kids get a sense of accomplishment too. When it ended, one of the kids asked if I was coming back. To know I’d made an impression on a kid I was helping? That’s rewarding."


To find the right opportunity for you, go to


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