This post was written by the former Estonian Credit Union, now Northern Birch Credit Union.
By Triina Kiilaspea, Retail Lending Administrator
In celebration of ECU’s 65th anniversary this year, staff were given the opportunity to take a day to volunteer with an organization of our choice.
Giving back to the community has always been an important point of focus for the credit union; whether it’s handing out scholarships for Estonian students attending post-secondary school, making donations to help support our summer camps, or hosting financial seminars aimed at educating our youth, elderly, and everyone in between.
For our volunteer day, we were permitted to choose any cause, organization, or event we could think of. I made the choice to volunteer for an event that I first attended when I was a child. The weekend-long event called Woofstock was held at Woodbine Park this year for its 16th year in a row on May 25th and 26th. Woofstock is an annual festival which celebrates dogs. It is North America’s largest dog-centered event in which people and their dogs may attend, and features hundreds of vendors of dog products, food, treats, and most importantly, they feature a section dedicated to helping rescue animals and their organizations. I chose this event as my volunteer day because I have always enjoyed attending in previous years and I love having the opportunity to work and be around animals.
My official volunteer day for the credit union was on Thursday, May 23rd, which was a set-up day preparing for the festival. The day started off with having the event U-Haul drive in, and we were designated to help unload the truck. A few of us were assigned golf carts for the day, so once we had unloaded the truck, we had to load up our golf carts with the different items and transport them to different areas of the festival grounds. We had vendors coming in to set up their tents as well, so we would periodically have to drive out to the front gate and guide vendors and their vehicles to their designated tent locations for set up. This continued for the majority of the day. After lunch, we were put on dog bowl duty. We were anticipating a hot and humid weekend for the thousands of dogs expected to show up, so bowls had to be placed at every tent location to make sure there was enough water throughout the weekend.
The festival itself features many small events happening over the course of the weekend such as agility events, talent competitions, fashion shows etc. Our final task was being given lists of what prizes and gift bags would be given out, so myself and another person spent the rest of the day packing up prize bags and driving them out to the competition locations.
We had pretty well completed set up for the festival by the end of the day. Throughout the course of the day, another company who had been working with us setting up the tents for the vendors had also finished. We were starting to pack up and head home when the wind started picking up. In the span of around 20 minutes, the wind became so violent that the tents came loose from the ground and started blowing across the park. Every single tent of the 100+ except for three came down. Some of the vendors who came that day to set up had all of their merchandise scattered around the park, and some tents even ended up getting stuck in the trees. It was complete chaos. I offered to come volunteer the next day after work because I felt terrible for what happened. I also ended up working the day on Saturday as well while the festival was taking place. On a positive note, the weekend had turned out to be a success. Everything ran smoothly and people from all over the world had come to take part.
It was an enjoyable experience being able to get a glimpse behind of scenes of how much work goes into putting these types of festivals on. I will most likely return to volunteer next year as well.