UNITY — National volunteer appreciation week is recognized April 24-30.
The importance of volunteers in a community is highlighted by community organizations that are entirely run by volunteer efforts. In Unity, this would include the Unity Ag Society.
Unity’s Agricultural Society started in 1910 and is an organization that has run for more than a century on volunteer efforts.
The Ag. Society in Unity currently has 20 members.
Longtime member volunteer, Joan Sperle, says, “Before the pandemic, we held the Fall Fair and Trade Show and Safety Days, two very important events in our town.”
Sperle says their organization is also proud to present a $1,000 bursary each year to a graduating student at Unity Composite High School, and the pandemic didn’t stop this.
They also commit to donating to various youth groups in the area.
One of the biggest assets of the Ag. Society and their biggest project to-date is the Agroplex located at Unity’s fairgrounds, build in 1991. Kitchen and bathrooms were added several years later. Sperle notes that it was constructed entirely by volunteer labour, with many helping hands. The project was a result of many fundraisers such as dances and raffles, helped along with community donations from individuals and organizations, which all contributed to the completion of this valuable community venue.
With the building under the Ag. Society’s direction, more volunteer requirements are needed as the building is funded by rentals which means helping clean the building, along with hired help. Volunteers also commit to cutting the grass and grounds cleaning. Hall booking is another task as is winter check-ins to ensure the heat is on and the water is running. Sperle says any maintenance that needs done can usually be done by Ag. Society volunteers.
“The Agroplex offers a service to the community. In 2015, we installed 12 electrical sites on the grounds to draw people who want to rent the Agroplex to bring their camper/trailer for the weekend. This has been a great drawing card and it is used a great deal in the summer. Not only do we rent them to those who have rented the hall, but on occasion, they have been used during a ball tournament,” says Sperle.
When it occurred. the annual Fall Fair and Trade Show was strictly run on volunteer efforts, and there were many tasks to undertake to ensure the success of their biggest fundraiser. Volunteers were needed to set up the Unity Community Centre for the event, which included hanging curtains and dividers then returning after the show to check on partition cleaning and take-down efforts. UAS also sought volunteers to run the food booth, collect admission at the door, and provide judging for the fall fair. Receiving entries for the fall fair and trade show was another task to add to the list.
“For the trade show and fall fair event, when it happened, we had volunteers receiving and cataloguing entries as early as April, which involved multiple phone calls and excellent organizational skills to map out entries as they came in,” Sperle says.
A fall fair booklet has to be created, printed and distributed and advertising needs to be looked after, including posters to be delivered to various surrounding towns.
“The trade show is so important to us and to those exhibitors who want to promote their business. Both the fall fair and trade show showcase the talent of so many people.”
Ag. Safety Days was another pre-pandemic event organized by the Ag. Society. The day was run by volunteers, included those presenting various safety stations for attending students as well as the initial planning of the day.
“The one-day event has been such a positive experience for kids, and they learn so much from it, talking about it for days after, “adds Sperle. The result is a feel-good experience for the Ag Society knowing they are contributing to safety education.
Sperle says, “We are a dying breed. The public enjoy our show, but it takes volunteers to keep it running. We need volunteers all year round for the work that our organization does in the community.”
Anyone interested in joining the Unity Ag Society can contact Joan Sperle.
“Volunteering can be very rewarding. You can make lifelong friends along the way and have a whole bunch of fun doing it.”