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Calgary Volunteer Fair opens door to give time not cash

Not everyone can give cash to one of Calgary’s many non-profit organizations. But they can give their time.

That’s one reward that sticks out for Alexandra Kryska Grams, vice president of the Calgary Volunteer Fair, which rolls out its second event Oct. 8.

“I think just being able to contribute some value in a non-monetary way has been very satisfying,” she said.

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“You really start to feel like an integral valued member of your community when you can give in this way.”

Kryska Grams said this year’s event at the Kerby Centre has some minor changes to allow for more vendor flexibility and they’ve lengthened how long the festival’s open.

One thing that’s beyond their control, but looks better this year, is the weather forecast. Last year’s inaugural Calgary Volunteer Fair went ahead amid a fall snowstorm that brought the city to a standstill.

Despite that, they had better than expected attendance.

“Calgarians are so good at just digging out their boots early when needed, because they’re kind of predicting that it can be unpredictable, and then coming out,” she said.

Sixty Calgary organizations will have booths set up this year with a range of volunteering options. Kryska Grams said this year they filled up quickly and they had to create a vendor waiting list shortly after opening it up. That waiting list is bigger than last year.

Demand for service is greater, as is the need for volunteers

There’s a real need for volunteer help at many Calgary organizations because donor money in a limping economy is hard to come by and the demand for services is greater, she said.  

“When you look at something like a food bank, they’re serving more people right now as well. Their operational needs have gone up and the feed into those operational needs has diminished,” said Kryska Grams.

“So, they’re really stuck in an awkward space.”

Given the number of vendors, there’s really an opportunity for people to give back to their community in an area of interest, said Kryska Grams. Whether it’s animal-related, military-related or sport-related, the Calgary Volunteer Fair can connect people to volunteer opportunities that fit their respective interests.

That was the original goal when her and John Smiley helped found the Calgary Volunteer Fair in 2018. They wanted a spot where people could find a volunteer gig that fit and be able to browse in one spot.

When you find one, it’s a chance to connect with others who want to donate their time in shared areas of interest.

“That has allowed me to grow and expand as a human and meet these other awesome humans in a way that would not have been possible at all without volunteering, period,” said Kryska Grams.

The Calgary Volunteer Fair is Oct. 8 at the Kerby Centre (1133 – 7 Avenue SW) from 12 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit volunteerfair.ca.