Volunteer Fair highlights generosity and need in Kelowna

Making volunteer recruitment easy to do, is the simple fact that there is something for every passion, which was evident at the fair.

A peek into the vast network of Kelowna residents who work behind the scenes to ensure this community has its needs met was available at Parkinson Rec this weekend.

The 18th annual Volunteer Fair, hosted by Kelowna Community Resources, brought together 71 of 375 potential Central Okanagan non-profit organizations.

As volunteers to these organizations spent the day at a booth explaining what their respective organizations do for the community, nearly 1,000 people interested in offering their time  introduced themselves.

“Most of (these groups) are actively recruiting,” said organizer Stephanie Moore. “I’ve been walking around and looking at the volunteer sign up sheets and they’re really filling up.”

All in all, it was a very Canadian spectacle.

“Canada is second in the world for volunteering,” said Moore, pointing out that only the Netherlands sees a higher percentage of its residents offer their time, free of charge.

“As a culture, we are accustomed to getting services at little to no cost, but that requires us to donate a lot of our time… sometimes we have to remind people, we live in a great country because people donate so much of their time.”

Making volunteer recruitment easy to do, is the simple fact that there is something for every passion, which was evident at the fair.

If you love arts and culture there was plenty.

Children? Lots of ways to contribute.

Adults with varying challenges? Your help is needed.

There’s even a whole organization dedicated to ensuring cats are cared for. The Alley Cat Alliance has run from Kelowna to Penticton since 2012, ensuring that feral and loose cats are kept out of harms way.

On Saturday they were looking for volunteers to simply drive cats in their care to vet appointments, collect blankets or even help trap roaming cats—and plenty offered their time. More, however, are still needed as they estimate there has been a 78 per cent increase in the number of cats in need over the last year.

Over at a more established non profit, the Kelowna Community Food Bank, the story of need was similar.

The demand on the food bank’s services goes up all the time, explained Patty Lou Bryant. “We’d be lost without our volunteers.”

Luckily for them, Bryant said, the community’s desire to give is similarly high, and there are 30 to 40 volunteers in and out of the food bank on any given day.

That appetite to help was noticeable at the fair. Sign up sheets for volunteering were snapped up quickly Saturday, leaving Bryant to create an impromptu calling list for those interested in giving their time.

A steady volunteer to the food bank was even helping her field the queries from interested parties.

Elma Hiebert is a volunteer who, Bryant said, is a blessing to the organization.

“My husband and I moved here from Manitoba, after taking early retirement, and we volunteer because we want to do something useful with our lives,” Hiebert said.

“It’s very rewarding.”