Organizations in Arnprior, Ont. in desperate need of volunteers

Following a frustrating two years, many local organizations in Arnprior, Ont. are looking for extra hands ahead of a normal looking summer.

The town hosted its first ever volunteer fair Saturday at the Nick Smith Centre, with 25 local groups attending.

One of which was the Arnprior Agricultural Society, which is in need of volunteers for its Valley Agricultural Festival, making a return this summer after a two year hiatus.

"We will take anybody that would like to volunteer, we have no limit," Heather Gallagher, head of volunteers for the society, told CTV News. "Right now we're quite short."

The fair is looking for volunteers, young and old who have lots of time or even just a couple hours to give. Volunteers are needed to staff areas like gate entrances, livestock areas, craft tents, and entertainment venues.

"All the organizations I've talked to that are here today, a lot of them mention they lost their volunteer base over the last two years," says Lucas Power, a program coordinator with the town of Arnprior and the organizer of Saturday's volunteer fair. "We haven't had many campaigns or events, or programs, or fundraisers."

A range of organizations are looking for help such as Arnprior's Humane Society.

"We're desperate because of COVID, I'm the first volunteer they've had come back," says Marilyn Caillier, who herself is a volunteer and only returned to the organization in December.

"We've had a couple of people interested today," she says of the people who stopped by her table. "One or two is great. Twenty or 30 would be even better."

A factor fighting against the availability of volunteers is a record low unemployment rate. After many people were out of work in the beginning of the pandemic, Statistics Canada says more people than ever are back to work full time as of April with a national unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent.

"We're not entirely sure of what we're going to be getting into," says Power ahead of Saturday's turnout. "But we're looking to speak to people about how they want to get involved in any capacity, whether it's one hour a week or like a part time job in a volunteer role."

Arnprior resident Julie Burns took time to attend Saturday's fair. Burns says she works full-time during the winter but has more hours to give once summer rolls around.

"Now that everything is open I just want to see if there's anything I can connect with and bring my kids to see and understand how to better connect," says the 32-year-old.

But with just two hands and limited time in the day, Burns is hoping fellow residents are able to give some of their time as well.

"Almost every table has been of interest," says Burns, who adds she came in looking to work with seniors. "So when you actually stop and talk to everybody it makes you really think about it. So I'm excited to go home and take the pamphlets and look at all the different dates."