Throughout National Volunteer Week the VA blog will be featuring the volunteer experiences of the Volunteer Alberta staff. Volunteerism comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and so does volunteer recognition. We encourage you to share with us your experiences in volunteerism – Tell us where you have volunteered and how you were recognized!
During the 2010 Edmonton Municipal Election, I volunteered for Don Iveson’s City Council re-election campaign. Councillor Iveson put an emphasis on ensuring that the volunteer experience was not only a positive one, but also downright fun. During the final week of the campaign he held volunteer events with food provided by the Eva Sweets waffle truck in the morning and Elm Café sandwiches in the afternoon. Every volunteer was invited to the election night party, which was great, but volunteer recognition was a focus throughout the whole campaign. Volunteers were also given t-shirts emblazoned with the proposed future LRT map. Don took the time to individually thank each member of his large and enthusiastic group of volunteers; and in the end, that was the best form of recognition – a sincere ‘thank you’.
I spent a day volunteering for the cross-country phase of a June event put on by the Clearwater Valley Pony Club in Beaumont. It was a cold and dark morning when the alarm went off; thankfully I can always hop out of bed for a horse related event. My 5 year old daughter and I were looking forward to the day. We showed up to a well-organized and friendly crew with free hot coffee and breakfast. It didn’t take long for me to receive good instructions, answers to my questions and supplies (pre-packed snacks, a radio and a lawn chair). My daughter instantly connected with the crew of kids whom she hadn’t met previously and set off aboard an ATV, smiles plastered on their faces. After hiking out to my allotted jumps for the day, I set up camp and nestled in. What a joy to get a front row seat to all the horse jumping action and to be involved in judging the competition. It was also a treat to learn more about running an event and to hear the discussion on the radio between the officials. Occasionally the ATV full of children would fly by, and refill my coffee cup and ask if I needed anything. We were very well looked after and what was a long day on the clock flew by too fast. My daughter was given the opportunity to be a part of the group and made many new friends in the process. I can’t wait to volunteer at the event again, it was a great group people and a wonderful experience for my daughter and I.
I was one of 1100 volunteers for this year’s Tim Hortons Brier. The sea of blue (our jackets) was apparent everywhere you looked. 50-50 volunteers were the largest division – as there were usually 50+ people per draw. Some days had 3 draws so I’m sure the logistics were crazy!
As a 50-50 volunteer, I had different shifts, either selling tickets or helping in the count room. Selling was fun – got to walk about, chat with people, provide information, and mingle with other volunteers. In the count room, we had to quickly and efficiently file all the sellers through once the draw closed so the winner could be chosen in a timely manner. I even got to pull a couple of the winning tickets! Chatting with the other volunteers was great fun and we even discussed how volunteering might be a great way to see the event when another city hosts it.
Overall it was a great experience. It was a long time to volunteer for – I was there for seven out of the events 10 days, including one day I did a double shift. However, we worked with super staff and the volunteer coordinators were very appreciative.
We got to show how fantastic the volunteers are in Edmonton and Alberta. Can’t complain.
My fondest volunteer experience by far was a three year stint with the radio show Adamant Eve on the campus and community radio station CJSR. I started working on the show through a Community-Service Learning (CSL) placement for a university course, but I fell in love with it and asked to stay on, eventually becoming the producer of the show a year and a half later. I can’t pinpoint what made my time there so great – I have a hard time narrowing it down. I had great mentors. I had room to be creative, to grow and advance. I got to research things that interested me, interview people that inspired me, and use my writing skills to put together scripts. I had freedom and support simultaneously. I worked with friends on live show nights, and fulfilled my introverted, perfectionist tendencies putting together our pre-recorded shows. It was the perfect mix of flexibility and challenge with a huge dose of discovery and ownership.
Usually ‘volunteer recognition’ means free cupcakes, reference letters, or parties. While I would never turn down a free cupcake, for me all of the factors that made my time at Adamant Eve amazing were volunteer recognition in and of themselves. After all, what better way to keep a volunteer than to make them happy in a fulfilling role!
Last year, I volunteered for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. As a hockey fan since birth, I was thrilled to help out. There were two specific highlights for me. As a Ceremonies volunteer, one of my duties was to help pass out a large Canadian flag for excited fans to pass it around the arena! Our volunteer team sprinted around the upper bowl of Rexall Place to keep up with the flag, to ensure it didn’t touch the ground and that it was quickly wrapped up at the end. The other major highlight was distributing the Player of the Game awards on New Year’s Eve, when Team Canada beat the United States. Being on the ice, in the middle of Rexall Place hearing the crowd drown out the Canadian anthem played was certainly something I’ll remember forever. I couldn’t believe that I got to do all these great things as a volunteer!