Alberni Valley volunteer fair returns Sept. 21

Many organizations in Port Alberni are facing the challenge of a lack of volunteers.

Wholesome Meals on Wheels volunteer Gail Acker loads a stack of totes filled with hot meals to deliver to home-bound residents in Port Alberni. Meals on Wheels will be one of several organizations at the Volunteer Fair on Wednesday

Many organizations in Port Alberni are facing the challenge of a lack of volunteers. Last year, staff from Better at Home organized a Volunteer Fair to address the issue, showcase local charities and non-profit groups and give residents a chance to sign up as volunteers. Its success has led to a similar fair being held Sept. 21.

“It was very well received and supported,” said Barb Stevenson, program coordinator for Better at Home. “Some of the agencies were able to recruit volunteers.”

One of those was Wholesome Meals on Wheels. The organization relies on volunteers to deliver hot meals to home-bound clients.

“Last year we saw new volunteers exploring areas of interest,” said Janet Buchanan, Meals on Wheels coordinator.

About 25 participating organizations were set up with information booths, ranging from sports clubs, health and wellness charities and service groups, but organizers have room for many more. Stevenson said Better at Home applied for and was granted Community Investment Program assistance which allows them to use Echo Centre for the event.

“We can handle about 45 to 60 groups,” Stevenson said.

The fair was launched last year after Stevenson and her staff were interested in pooling ideas together with other organizations and potentially open up a co-op-style volunteer bureau. The idea was to have a central place for residents to view volunteer positions and apply all in one spot.

There was interest, but with most groups focused on their own work, the idea has not progressed. Instead, the volunteer fair will be the place for agencies and volunteers to meet.

“That is the nature of the services industry,” Stevenson said. “People are busy. But this way, they can go and ‘shop’ for opportunities. I think the participants enjoyed it so much because they were able to connect with similar agencies that have been around for a long time, serving tangible needs. They may not have many resources but are carried fully by volunteers.”

“Whether it is a cause near and dear to your heart or a new endeavour, the opportunity is there,” Buchanan said. “Many volunteer positions take only an hour or so of your time on a weekly basis.”

The fair is free and all attendees will receive a package with a list of all participating agencies. Refreshments will be provided. It all takes place on Wednesday, Sept. 21 from 3–7 p.m. at Echo Centre. For more information, and to sign up as an organization (by Sept. 15), contact pabetterathome@shaw.ca or call 778-419-3000.

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