Not everyone is good at holding sick hands or running a charity marathon, no matter how worthy the cause may be. Still, there’s no denying that volunteering experience helps pad a weak resume and is helpful for networking (a terrible but important word in the working world), making friends and getting acquainted with new city, plus it just feels darn good.
Before committing to a volunteering gig, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions first: Start by determining how much time you can realistically commit. No one is asking you to give up your Thursday night donair date—if you can only commit an hour or two a month, it’s up to you to let the organization know that upfront. Also, be clear about the type of work you would like to do, and what kind of skills you have to offer or would like to learn. Just like a blind date or a new job, it’s helpful to get a personal reference beforehand. Find someone who has volunteered before and quiz them on their experiences. While most non-profits cherish their unpaid staff, there are a few out there who will take advantage of the free situation.
So, my eager beavers and do-gooders, here are a few places to get you started, carefully chosen for their high fun factor rating.
Atlantic Film Festival
“We need tons,” says Amy Reitsma, the film festival’s volunteer coordinator. Running the Atlantic Film Festival (September 14 to 23) requires a village-sized army with all its gala parties, film screenings and industry events. Ticket taking, greeting guests at various functions, registration, box office and working at the gala parties are just some of the jobs Reitsma breathlessly lists off. C’mon people…parties? Popcorn? Free movies? Depending on the number of hours you volunteer, you will receive a free t-shirt, a badge that allows access to festival screenings that are not sold out, plus daytime industry events and a volunteer wrap party. Just remember, Scorsese Jr., this is not the time to shove a script into the hands of an unsuspecting film producer—you’re working as a professional representative of the festival. Download an application from atlanticfilm.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bide Awhile Animal Shelter
If you’re missing Pooky or Spot back in your hometown, perhaps it’s time to give some other animals a bit of loving. Bide Awhile Animal Shelter in Dartmouth rescues and cares for unwanted animals that would otherwise face euthanasia. According to their website, bidawhile.org, the shelter relies on 98-percent volunteer support and two-percent staff. Volunteers sit on committees or help at special events, including Bowling for Critters (you can’t take the tabby down the lane, but imagine how cute those wee shoes would be) and the annual pet photo challenge, where the winning furry mugs appear in the cutest fundraising calendar around.
Mom says you have a voice like an angel. You think Pitchfork is full of shit. Perhaps you need to be on the radio. Dalhousie’s campus radio station is always on the lookout for volunteers—and not just for playing music either, there is spoken word programming to fill and plenty of behind-the-scenes opportunities as well. Open to all members of the community (non-Dal students pay a $15 annual membership), each volunteer must complete orientation training, plus five hours of volunteering time and do a 30-minute demo. Visit ckdu.ca for a schedule of orientation times, or call 494-6479.
Ecology Action Centre
If Al Gore has you scared that global warming will do more than just microwave your popcorn and you’re starting to miss Rick Mercer on those One-Tonne Challenge commercials, you’ll find some like-minded pals at the Ecology Action Centre. The green mouthpiece of the city, the EAC was voted top activist organization in The Coast’s Best of Halifax readers’ poll. Focusing on marine, coastal, wilderness, food, transportation, energy and urban issues, the EAC has over 250 volunteers and staff dedicated to the cause, working out of their swishy, environmentally friendly new office on Fern Lane (at a minimum, go take a tour of the space). Be green and download a volunteer profile form (onto recycled or reused paper) at www.ecologyaction.ca
Eyelevel Gallery & Khyber Arts Society
Look out! The two artist-run centres are always on the lookout for volunteers—trolling the streets, waiting for the eager new blood from NSCAD to arrive. Seriously, artist-run centres are only able to survive and thrive because of the generous donation of time from students, practicing artists and art-loving volunteers who assist with everything from installing exhibitions to organizing fundraising parties. A great way to connect with the artistic community and to learn how galleries work, volunteers are required to do an array of jobs, from pouring beer for opening receptions to sitting on various committees. Right now Eyelevel is also looking for a computer type, and people to volunteer at the Go North! studio tour and North End Community Festival on September 9 and 10. Look for details at www.eyelevelgallery.ca or www.khyberarts.ns.ca
Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada
If you don’t melt when you see those eyes, those big, dark pools of gentleness, you might want to avoid websites like cuteoverload.com. Or gpac.ca, home of Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada. This worthy organization saves retired racing dogs, up to 30 of them, three times a year, from the US. GPAC is looking for volunteers who would be willing to spend some time in their Musquodoboit-based kennel, where the dogs-without-jobs live until they’re adopted to loving families. Tasks include walking the sweethearts, washing out food containers, filling up water jugs, raking the kennel yard, and yes, cleaning the poop. It’s not all glamourous, you know.
Halifax Pop Explosion
Every autumn, thoughts turn to boots and sweaters, hearty soups and the Halifax Pop Explosion (October 17 to 21). Although the complete line-up hasn’t been revealed yet, we’re jazzed by news that The Weakerthans are coming to town, as are Great Lake Swimmers, Pony Up, Raising the Fawn, Barmitzvah Brothers, dd/mm/yyyy, plus a forearm-long list of other great shows by local and touring bands. On their website, halifaxpopexplosion.com, there’s a list of volunteer positions badly needed, including stage and house managers, drivers (with cars please), envelope stuffers and snipers—people who can pass out handbills, program guides and posters (of course, in complete accordance with HRM postering legislation).
Live Art Dance Production
Halifax enjoys a legacy of strong contemporary dance production, in part thanks to the vision and hard work of Live Art’s founder, Diane Moore, who passed away in December 2003. Moore’s legacy dances on, and last year Live Art brought some incredible contemporary movement to the stage, including Mary Ellen MacLean’s crowd-pleaser-on-wheels, Velocipede, and the incredible Marie Chouinard. As the city’s biggest dance presenters ramp up for their new season, they are also looking for volunteers. If you’ve been a bit shy about contemporary dance, but would like to learn more, here’s your chance—email email@example.com or visit www.liveartproductions.com