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Volunteer Fair wants to help connect giving Calgarians with local organizations

John Smiley said the classified-ads nature of available Calgary volunteer opportunities just isn’t very compelling.

In fact, it might be dissuading people from even getting involved, said Smiley, president of the Volunteer Fair board.

That’s what initially prompted him to help launch the Volunteer Fair back in 2018. It was held again in 2019 before being cancelled for the past two years due to the pandemic. It was scheduled for April 30 this year, but that was in the middle of the Covid-19 fifth wave.

Now it’s time to bring it back. Both potential volunteer organizations and volunteers are invited to participate Sept. 10 at the Bowness Community Centre from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Smiley said it’s about making personal connections and finding the right fit. That’s impossible to do via listings.

He found his first volunteer opportunity with Calgary Meals on Wheels roughly 15 years ago. Smiley was at an event with a friend that was a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels.  They’d heard a speaker there and decided to make the jump.

It was an in-person connection that they both felt good about.

“The real benefit for both parties here is you actually get face time to start building relationships right now,” he said.

He said sometimes there’s a perception that if folks inquire about being a volunteer, they will continue to be solicited for things.

“It’s kind of like a political party. It’s kind of like fundraising,” he said.

“I think (the Volunteer Fair) is really a great opportunity to just explore with no pressure, no commitment, no anything,” he said.

Demand for volunteers

With some of his own recent experiences, Smiley said he’s seen a big demand for volunteers. It’s coming in places he didn’t think would be struggling for help.

With the threat of Covid-19 still looming, Smiley thinks there’s a lingering worry among the potential volunteer pool. Plus, people are still dealing with their own post-Covid situations.

“I think, in part, people who might be volunteers are still reluctant to go back out into the world in the same way,” Smiley said.

“People have moved on. I mean, it’s a different place. It’s a different time there. The world has changed.”

He’s just hoping to provide a place for Calgarians to come a find a way to give back to their community.

“Anybody looking for a volunteer gig can roll in and stop and talk to whichever tables they like,” he said.

“It’s about discovery, really is what it’s about.”

For more information visit volunteerfair.ca.