Helenans had a chance on Sunday to check out volunteering opportunities from 32 nonprofit and volunteer-based groups and in the process got to make s’mores, meet an owl and play with robots.

The second annual Step Up Volunteer Fair offered options from helping walk dogs to working with seniors.

John Lewis, a coordinator with Americorps VISTA, said the crowd wasn’t as large as last year’s but those who attended stayed for a much longer time.

“Folks have been going around. They come in and they don’t leave. People have been staying upwards of an hour,” he said.

Most of the organizations’ tables had an activity such as making s’mores with the Girl Scouts.

“Our retention has been great. All of the nonprofits are happy because people aren’t leaving,” Lewis said. “It’s the person you had that 20-minute conversation with that counts, not the one who takes the pen.”

One attention getter was Shredder, the great horned owl, at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks table.

Donald Eisenmenger handled the bird, who has been an education ambassador for the last 22 years after being injured on a barbed-wire fence.

“He’s a little bit uncomfortable,” Eisenmenger said of the owl, which seemed nervous about the crowd.

Laurie Evarts, education program manager with Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the fair went well.

“We’ve been getting a variety of people,” she said. 

The FWP crew was looking for volunteers to help care for animals at its wildlife center and others to do administrative work. Volunteers also are needed for the Wild Montana education facility opening in December.

Delrene Rasmussen came to the fair looking for somewhere to volunteer.

“I’ve been retired for a couple of years and I am getting tired of sitting at home,” she said. “I just thought I would try and find something this winter.”

Rasmussen was looking for office work and said she found a few good opportunities.

Fletcher Troyer, 10, checked out ExplorationWorks’ robots at their table at Carroll College.

“It’s pretty fun,” he said.

While he played, his father, Jake, helped run a table for the Montana Wilderness Association.

“We’ve been educating people the whole day. It’s been great,” Jake Troyer said.

Drenda Carlson, chair of the Step Up committee, said she was pleased with Sunday’s fair.

“The conversations were rich,” she said. “They’re really interested in what we’re doing.”

Carlson said the group plans on having another fair next October.


Reporter Angela Brandt: 447-4078 or angela.brandt@helenair.com

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