Shauna Pratt is the volunteer organizer for the Hats Off Day parade. She is a Scientology volunteer minister and has volunteered with the events since 2006. Recently, Pratt took part in a question-and-answer session with the Burnaby NOW to share her perspective on why volunteering is important, and what the Heights Merchants Association needs in terms of volunteers for the annual Hats Off Day celebration, which takes place on June 1.
When did you start volunteering and what made you decide to do it?
I've been volunteering since I was a Girl Guide in the dark ages of the 1960s! Even then I could see that helping others made life more interesting and more fun. It was the best feeling to know you had helped someone. The motto of our Scientology Volunteer Ministers is "Something CAN be done about it." - and that inspires me to help whenever and wherever I can.
Q: When did you begin volunteering with Hats Off Day, and what has your experience been thus far?
A: Our disaster response team met with Burnaby city officials in 2006 to find out what they needed help with in the community and the answer was - barricades at community events. The training in communication and organization that we had, and the fact that most of our volunteers are over 18 years of age, made this a good fit for us. I personally find Hats Off to be one of the best-organized and most fun local events to be involved in. The organizing committee is very dedicated and the Heights merchants and the Heights Merchants Association staff have made this the biggest, most vibrant family event in the Lower Mainland. Standing at a barricade may not sound like a lot of fun, but you are making it safe for people to have fun and enjoy the parade and festival. You are also a bit of a parade ambassador - helping people who are confused by the road closures.
Q: What do volunteers do to get Hats Off Day up and running? What's involved?
A: Wow, that's a big question - the first group of volunteers that makes it happen is the organizing committee - this is people from the community who meet with the staff of the Heights Merchants Association throughout the year to make sure all aspects of Hats Off Day go off without a hitch. Once the plan and theme are in place, committee members form sub committees to organize sponsorships, the parade itself, the entertainment, the traffic and safety aspects, volunteers, displays and everything that makes Hats Off Day so special. It is all kept rolling by the wonderful Heights Merchants Association staff.
Q: What kind of volunteers take part and what are their roles?
A: There are several categories of volunteers - youth volunteers are very important. For traffic and safety, we have adult volunteers to man the barricades in shifts from 7: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and they work side by side with RCMP auxiliary constables. The RCMP auxiliaries are specially trained, unarmed, uniformed RCMP volunteers who participate in community events and programs.
A barricade volunteer - and we need about 120 of them - is positioned at each intersection to ensure no vehicles get onto Hastings Street between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on June 1st. The city engineering department organizes the whole road closure and the RCMP is on hand to control major intersections, while volunteers man the 30 to 40 key spots along the route. The reason we need so many barricade volunteers is so they are twinned up and so each volunteer can do a four-or five-hour shift, rather than an eight-hour shift.
Q: Why are you looking for volunteers for this event?
A: Many of our barricade volunteers, including the Scientology volunteer ministers and teams from Crime Watch and Royal City Skaters, have been manning the barricades every year, so they know exactly what to do, but we really want to involve adult volunteers from the community, too. This allows us to expand the ranks of volunteers and ensure that they get to spend some time AT Hats Off Day enjoying the festivities.
Q: What do you need them to do, and what is the time commitment?
A: Ideally a barricade volunteer can spend the whole day at Hats Off Day. When we know we have enough volunteers the shift for each person can be reduced. Afternoon volunteers are especially needed, so anyone who is over 18 and willing to help from noon to 4 p.m. will be trained to help on the barricades.
Q: What do volunteers get out of giving their time?
A: It may sound corny but our barricade volunteers just like to help. Of course, the event sponsors provide lunches and water and a volunteer appreciation event is held after Hats Off Day. High school volunteers receive a letter to document their contributions and our barricade volunteers get the satisfaction of knowing they took responsibility for their zone and kept it safe.
To volunteer for Hats Off Day, contact the Heights Merchants Association by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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