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Want to meet Tim Hortons co-founder? Volunteer website trades hours for meetings

A Tim Hortons billboard advertises English muffin sandwich in Mississauga on Feb. 18, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Libby Yuill

Ron Joyce, the co-founder of the Tim Hortons empire, isn’t likely to take a meeting with just anyone.

But spend 20 hours doing volunteer work for a good cause and he’ll sit down for a talk over a couple of double-doubles, no problem.

Joyce is among the big names who have donated some time to the new website Timeauction.org, where volunteers can sign up to be rewarded for their good deeds.

The website is run by David Wen, who organized an offline volunteer-for-prizes event while studying at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and set up another in Vancouver.

Believing the idea had big potential, he built a website to attract prospective volunteers across the country and managed to recruit some interesting people who agreed to offer their time as prizes.

“I figured wouldn’t it be cool if we were able to auction off (the opportunity) to meet cool people or get great experiences,” Wen says.

So far, volunteers can donate their time in exchange for meetings with CBC design gurus Steven and Chris, Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke, co-anchor of the BNN show “The Street” Pamela Ritchie, Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, and a number of other well-connected professionals.

Each meeting has a preset number of volunteer hours needed to be claimed and they’re handed out on a first come, first served basis. Wen says he considered awarding the meetings to the highest bidders but had some concerns with that approach after running his offline events.

“What we started to find was that people may bid above their capabilities and it’s a real stretch for them to complete the hours, so what we wanted to move towards was having more people win with lesser hours,” he says.

“We were also finding that people who were bidding 50 or 60 hours were the ones who had a lot of time and probably were already volunteering anyway, where we want to target people who maybe it’s the first time they’re volunteering and we get them hooked on giving back to the community.”