Edmonton Capitals win for Homeward Trust volunteers!

Homeward Trust held its annual volunteer appreciation event tonight. Instead of the typical drinks-and-thank-you-speech outing, this year they decided to invite everyone to an Edmonton Capitals baseball game. Neither Sharon nor I had been to Telus Field since the team was still known as the Trappers, so we thought it would be a fun night. It was!

Edmonton Capitals

All of the Homeward Trust volunteers sat in section H, on the east side of the field. That meant we were in the sun for most of the game. After a few innings the heat got to us, so we decided to explore. We met Razzle:

Edmonton Capitals

And we discovered the specialty hotdogs at Telus Field. Sharon couldn’t resist the Perogy Dog with fried potatoes, bacon, onions, sour cream, and cheese:

Edmonton Capitals

We ventured back to our seats for the 5th inning and stayed for the rest of the game (thankfully it got much cooler once the sun disappeared behind the buildings). The Capitals won their ninth straight over the Tijuana Cimarrones, 14-5.

Edmonton Capitals

Baseball isn’t really my thing, but I enjoyed tonight. If you’d like to check out a Capitals game, tickets are just $10. Tomorrow night the Oilers top prospects will be in attendance, including Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Thanks Homeward Trust!

You can see more photos here.

Homeless Connect Edmonton 3

Edmonton’s third Homeless Connect was held yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre (I wrote about HCE2 here). Over 1100 people attended to receive free services from more than 60 local agencies. Guests could make long distance phone calls, get haircuts, see a dentist, find a winter jacket, and much more all for free. New this time around was supervised child care, increased Aboriginal services, and free photographs! Everyone was served a hot lunch and received a gender-appropriate “goodie bag” too.

“It was a great day. The amount of people and services that come together to support our neighbors is exceptional,” says Joanne Currie, Homeless Connect co-chair and Community Investment Specialist with the United Way. “It’s vital that people dealing with homelessness access these services, and it’s wonderful that they can find these easily, on one day and under one roof.”

There were more than 300 volunteers on hand for the day. Some of us were there all day, while others took either the morning or afternoon shift. Everything seemed much better organized this time around, and there was far less confusion among volunteers about where to be and what to do. It’s great to see that the organizers have acted on feedback from previous events to improve things.

Homeless Connect 3

I’m continually amazed at how many volunteers come out for the event. I’m also pleasantly surprised that so many of them are young! I have no idea what the average age of a Homeward Trust volunteer is, but I suspect its lower than the average for most service organizations. It’s great to see young people taking an active role in helping the less fortunate and improving our community.

I worked at registration this time, which I really enjoyed. The line was quite long throughout the morning but definitely slowed down around 1:30pm. As guests arrived, I introduced myself and shook their hand. I then asked them if they wanted to fill out a quick one-page survey (no one that came to my table declined). Usually I’d just ask the questions and fill it out for them. They survey was pretty straightforward but could definitely be streamlined. After the survey guests received a wristband and goodie bag and were on their way!

Once again I was reminded that the primary role of a volunteer at Homeless Connect is to be friendly and to listen, to ensure that all guests have a positive experience. A smile and a few minutes to chat really can make a big difference!

Homeless Connect 3Homeless Connect 3

I saw some familiar faces at the event (such as Mayor Mandel helping to serve lunch), and met some new people too, such as Lynn (DandelionV on Twitter).

“I’m very impressed with this event. It’s wonderfully organized,” says first time volunteer Lynn Turnbull. “It’s so wonderful seeing each guest being treated with respect and dignity. I thoroughly enjoyed my day.”

Alex also volunteered and wrote about his experience here. You can also check out articles in The Journal and The Sun.

Another great event in the books! I’ll definitely be helping out at the next one. Stay tuned to Homeless Connect Edmonton on Twitter for updates. You can see the rest of my photos here.

Recap: artsScene Edmonton boardLink

Tonight was the first ever boardLink event in Edmonton, hosted by artsScene Edmonton with partners Emerging Business Leaders, InterVivos, and JCI Edmonton and held in the Shoctor Lobby at The Citadel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend, but I’m glad I did. Here’s what it was all about:

boardLink is a national program that was created by Business for the Arts in 2002. Since its start, boardLink has connected hundreds of young professionals with volunteer opportunities in various arts and culture communities throughout Canada with boardLink Online and boardLink Live events.

You can think of it like speed dating for local arts organizations and potential volunteers. The organizations on hand tonight included: The Citadel Theatre, Edmonton Opera Association, Mile Zero Dance, Edmonton Jazz Festival Society, The Works International Visual Arts Society, The Art Gallery of Alberta, LitFest: Edmonton International Literary Festival, Fringe Theatre Adventures, Latitude 53, and Alberta Foundation for the Arts. There were roughly 50 potential volunteers in attendance.

artsScene Edmonton boardLinkartsScene Edmonton boardLink

At the beginning of the event, everyone was given five small post-it notes to paste on the agenda BarCamp-style, indicating which organization they wanted to check out in each rotation. The rotations themselves were 15 minutes each, so you had to be quick meeting an arts organization and introducing yourself. It wasn’t one-on-one, instead each arts organization had at least two volunteers and there were three or more potential volunteers in each group.

I did three rotations: Fringe Theatre Adventures, The Art Gallery of Alberta, and Latitude 53. The three could not have been more different! No one really knew what to do (so I guess it really was like speed dating in that way) but Sam and Thomas from FTA did a good job of giving an overview of the organization and the opportunities available. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to chat. In stark contrast to them, Allan and Priscilla from the AGA relied on us to prompt them with questions. It was a little awkward, but they were definitely excited about their new building. Finally, Todd and Vieri were very casual, funny, and off-topic. I enjoyed chatting with all of them.

It became clear to me as the evening unfolded that there’s a big disconnect between young people such as myself, and the arts organizations that were in attendance. We don’t know how to communicate with one another.

It was even evident during the opening remarks – EBL, InterVivos, and JCI were all well-spoken and informal human-sounding, talking about the great things they wanted to accomplish together. Penny from The Citadel congratulated everyone for coming and showing an interest, and ended by announcing a two-for-one offer for attendees. It just seemed tacky and out of place.

artsScene Edmonton boardLinkartsScene Edmonton boardLink

I’d say the event was a successful one, but it’s the follow-up that will truly determine the outcome. Everyone filled out a “volunteer profile” that will be circulated to the arts organizations so they will contact individuals who might be a good fit. More importantly, I hope artsScene puts on additional boardLink events in the future so that we can work on that communication disconnect!

Be sure to check out the artsScene Edmonton blog and Twitter for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from tonight here.

Homeless Connect Edmonton 2

Edmonton’s second Homeless Connect event was held on Sunday at the Shaw Conference Centre downtown. More than 1000 people attended to receive free services, such as haircuts, counseling, and immunizations, from more than 50 agencies. Though more people attended the first Homeless Connect back in October, everyone seemed happy with the turnout:

“We couldn’t be any more pleased with the day’s proceedings,” says Ione Challborn, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region. “The volunteers were smiling. The guests were smiling. I’m certain we made a positive contribution to our guests’ lives today.”

Homeless Connect 2Homeless Connect 2

Sharon, Chris, and I joined over 200 other volunteers at 8 AM to prepare for the day. The promised Volunteer Rally had to be cut short due to audio issues, but we still heard from Citytv’s Rob Hislop, Councillor Ben Henderson, MLA for Edmonton-McClung David Xiao, and Homeward Trust representatives (Ione Challborn, Cliff Higuchi, and Susan McGee). The “orientation” that followed was anything but – the large group loosely divided into four or five smaller ones, and figured out what to do from there. No one seemed to know what was going on, however! Organizers had a rough idea of how many volunteers were needed for each service/area, and everyone just volunteered as jobs were called out.

After the initial bit of mayhem, all the volunteers seemed to get into a groove, helping wherever necessary. Slowly but surely everyone learned where all of the services were located. Sharon spent most of her time at the registration desk, Chris chose to guide guests to their first stop, and I decided to help Shaw with the free Internet and phones. Most people were pleasantly surprised they could make long distance phone calls! Here are a couple other observations from my station:

  • The most commonly called person was Mom.
  • The first place most people went on the computer was Facebook.
  • Very few people needed technical help.

I guess I was surprised at the level of technical literacy I observed. The computers at local drop-ins and library locations must be used quite a bit! Actually that was another great thing I got to help with – handing out cards for free Internet at EPL locations, no library card required.

Sharon & MackSharon & ChrisHomeless Connect 2Homeless Connect 2Homeless Connect 2

I think Homeless Connect is a great event, and I’m really glad I was able to help out. It makes so much sense to have a “one stop shop” for our city’s less fortunate, because it reduces barriers and greatly simplifies things for everyone involved. The event also goes a long way toward increasing awareness of homelessness, and helps to chip away at the negative perceptions attached to the issue. It was definitely a positive experience for me.

The next Homeless Connect here in Edmonton takes place on Sunday, October 4th. I’m already signed up to volunteer, and I’m sure many others are as well. You can learn more about volunteering here, and you can see the rest of my photos here.

2009 Festival Volunteer Fair – May 13th

As summer approaches, the number of festivals taking place in the Edmonton area will start to increase! We’ve got some really great ones, including Capital EX, the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (25th anniversary this year) and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. You can find a full list at FestivalCity.ca.

All of these festivals require great volunteers, of course. That’s why Volunteer Edmonton is hosting another Festival Volunteer Fair on Wednesday:

This "one-stop festival volunteer shopping" experience is your chance to learn more about Edmonton’s diverse festivals all in one place and sign up to become a volunteer for one OR more festivals!

The event takes place on Wednesday, May 13th from 3pm to 8pm at the TransAlta Arts Barns (map). It’s completely free to attend, and you can take a look at the list of participating festivals here (warning: pdf). Last year around 20 festivals participated; this year, that number has grown to 32. Also new this year – increased marketing. I’ve seen posters and numerous online mentions of the fair, so I hope there’s a great turnout!

From the press release:

The estimated total number of volunteers required by all festivals is about 8,000 people. Statistics show that about 48 per cent of Edmontonians currently volunteer for a variety of worthwhile causes.

Let’s keep that percentage growing – tell a friend about the Festival Volunteer Fair!

National Volunteer Week 2009

This year’s national celebration of volunteers kicked off on Sunday and runs until Saturday. National Volunteer Week happens each year to recognize the thousands of individuals across Canada who contribute their time and energy to worthy causes. From Volunteer Canada’s press release:

“The economic recession is a difficult time for all of us, “said Ruth MacKenzie, president of Volunteer Canada.  “But many are using this time to roll up their sleeves, share their skills, and better their communities and the lives of others.”

I got some good news to start the week – my application to join the Community Engagement Advisory Committee for Edmonton EXPO 2017 as a volunteer member was accepted! I’m really looking forward to helping where I can and learning a lot through the process. I think EXPO 2017 would a fantastic event for Edmonton, and I’m going to do what I can to help win the bid.

Also this week, I signed up to volunteer for Homeless Connect 2, taking place on Sunday, May 24th at the Shaw Conference Centre downtown. I’m happy to help however I’m needed, though I’m sure they’ll have computers and Internet access on site so perhaps I can lend a hand there. For those of you new to the event:

Homeless Connect is a community event bringing together agencies, businesses and volunteers, on one day and at one location, to provide a range of services which can help homeless people out of homelessness.

The first Homeless Connect was a major success, so Homeward Trust promptly planned two more (the third will be in October). If you’d like to get involved, you can donate or volunteer.

If you’d like to find out about other volunteer opportunities in Edmonton, check out Volunteer Edmonton. They’re hosting a Festival Volunteer Fair on May 13th at the TransAlta Arts Barns.

Thank you volunteers – keep doing what you’re doing!

UPDATE: The City has launched a new online database to connect volunteers with opportunities. More information here.

Everyone for Edmonton

volunteer edmonton There’s a really cool event happening on Saturday that unfortunately I’m going to miss (as I’ll be in Vancouver). Everyone for Edmonton is the largest event of the year for volunteers, donors, and non-profit organizations.

The event takes place on August 23rd from 9:00am until 4:30pm at the Shaw Conference Centre downtown. Debbie Riopel, a founding member of the World Kindness Movement, will deliver a keynote to start things off. Her presentation is called Heroes for a Better World!

If you’re interested in volunteering, or if you just want to learn more about the various non-profits that exist in Edmonton, you should definitely take some time on Saturday to check out this event. One of the things we talked about at ALT.NET in Calgary last weekend was how to find out about potential projects – this event is a great way to do just that.

Admission to Everyone for Edmonton is free. If you’d like more information, you can contact EEDC or email everyoneforedmonton@edmonton.com.

Volunteer for one of Edmonton's great festivals

volunteer edmonton Despite another setback for our neighbors to the south this week, summer is definitely on the way and that means lots and lots of festivals here in Edmonton. With over 30 established festivals each year, it’s no surprise that we’re Canada’s Festival City. It should also be no surprise that running 30 festivals requires a lot of time and effort, largely from volunteers:

The estimated number of volunteers required by Edmonton’s festivals is about 5,000 people! Our festivals are a source of community pride and an important element in the quality of life for Edmontonians in the summer – and beyond!

To help attract new volunteers, Volunteer Edmonton is co-hosting a Festival Volunteer Fair next week:

This recruitment event will showcase multiple festivals and will provide members of the community with a “one stop festival volunteer shopping experience”.  We have confirmed that 15 diverse and exciting festivals will be on site, highlighting the volunteer opportunities they have to offer.

I think there are actually over 20 festivals now participating, including the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, A Taste of Edmonton, The Works Art & Design Festival, and the International Street Performers Festival.

The recruitment event takes place on Wednesday, May 14th from 3pm to 7pm at the TransAlta Arts Barns. Here’s a map of the location, and for more information you can call 211 or visit the Volunteer Edmonton site.

Check it out and pass it on!

National Volunteer Week 2008

national volunteer week Yesterday was the start of National Volunteer Week in Canada, a celebration of volunteers and volunteerism which runs through May 3rd. There are around 12 million volunteers in our country, contributing countless hours to their communities:

Canada boasts over 161,000 registered charitable organizations within which volunteers play a key role. According to the 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, the largest survey ever completed that examines how Canadians support each other and their communities, volunteers contribute two billion hours, the equivalent of one million full-time jobs.

I had no idea that National Volunteer Week was started so long ago:

National Volunteer Week was first proclaimed in 1943 as an initiative to draw the public’s attention to the vital contribution of women to the war effort on the home front. In the late 1960s, the focus was revived and broadened to include all community volunteers.

Like most junior high/high school students, I got into volunteering because it’s something universities and employers look for. However, I found very quickly that I really enjoyed volunteering. I’ve helped out at a bunch of organizations over the years, but I currently spend most of my volunteering time with the Learning Centre Literacy Association and the Youth Restorative Action Project.

If you’re a fellow Edmontonian, check out the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO). They have great resources for volunteers and organizations alike, and they also publish a really useful weekly email newsletter.

Here’s the press release from Volunteer Canada, and here is the official website for National Volunteer Week.

To all the volunteers reading this: thank you!