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Volunteering has become a family affair at the home show in Maple Ridge

Student and adult volunteers needed to fill shifts at the Ridge Meadows Home Show

Volunteers are the backbone of any community event.

But for those who volunteer at the Ridge Meadows Home Show it is an experience like none other . So much so that members of one family come back year after year, just to take part.

Jestin Deno, 34, and his sister Ryleigh Deno, 32, have been volunteers for decades with the show. Last year they got their cousin Courtney Deno, 34, involved.

Ryleigh started volunteering with the show when she was a Grade 9 student at Samuel Robertson Technical.

Jestin, in Grade 11 at the time, had already one year experience under his belt and told her how much fun the experience was.

“My very first year I helped out in the kitchen because I was still young,” explained Ryleigh. The following year she helped out at the family festival and became the Fun Zone leader, a role she has been managing every year since.

This year she is trying something new, hosting, where she will be welcoming the inside vendors, helping them move in, and more customer service roles with the public.

Ryleigh said she has come back every year to help out because she enjoys the group she works with.

“It’s the same solid group that has been with the home show for at least the last 10 years or more,” she explained.

She also enjoys the chance to give back to the community.

As an education assistant in the school district she sees many students come through the fair and others who are also helping out.

“It’s a long, busy, but fun, fun weekend,” she said.

Last year Ryleigh and Jestin recruited their cousin Courtney.

“It was lots of fun. Everybody that I did work with was very family oriented, very welcoming,” Courtney said.

This year Courtney will be taking on Ryleigh’s old position, taking care of the Fun Zone.

Ryleigh enjoys working with family on the show. Her brother, she said, has been her support when things are not going as planned, like one year when the fairgrounds were flooded.

“Everyone helped,” she said. “But it was just kind of nice to have my big brother there to lean on and have support from,” added Ryleigh.

Jhammi-Leigh Gunnarsen, assistant event coordinator and the volunteer program co-ordinator for the home show, noted how hard working the Deno’s are.

“The Deno’s have been a Home Show staple for many years and they are amazing people to work,” said Gunnarsen.

“With their wide range of talents they have conquered many of the departments throughout the show. The brother and sister combo started at a young age and have volunteered for many years. With the newest addition of their cousin, family and volunteering go hand in hand at the Ridge Meadows Home Show,” she added.

Another volunteer Ayden Shearer started at the Ridge Meadows about 15 years ago through the student volunteer program at SRT when he was in Grade 10. He volunteered throughout high school and college.

READ ALSO: Students imperative to Ridge Meadows Home Show

“I enjoyed it. It was like a family. It’s still like a family. The core group of volunteers, I only see them once a year for this event and they are really like a family for me,” he said. So much so that any job Shearer has taken on over the years, he tells his boss there are two events he volunteers for in Maple Ridge – one being the Ridge Meadows Home Show – they take up two weeks of the year, he said, and it is non-negotiable that he will be going.

Shearer noted that he has learned many skills from volunteering at the home show, from assembling stages to putting up walls for booths, and also leadership skills, all of which he still uses to this day as a red seal welder.

Now 29, he travels from the Okanagan, where he currently works and lives, just to volunteer at the event and last year he was asked to be a member of the board of directors.

Graham Vanstone, executive director of the Ridge Meadows Home Show, said volunteers are one of the main keys to the success of the home show.

“They not only help by donating their time and experience but allow us to continue to provide a place for the community to come together and support local,” he explained.

ALSO: Home show delights thousands at fairgrounds in Maple Ridge

Typically they need around 75 to 100 volunteers throughout all the different departments to make sure the fair runs smoothly. They have positions available on the Monday before the show begins all the way until the day after the show.

So far they have around 25 volunteers signed up between both the adult and student volunteer groups. They are looking for more.

Without volunteers, Vanstone would not be able to offer everything the fair currently offers the community.

“Volunteers really allow us to keep booth and admission prices affordable as well as free parking and the free family festival,” he said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can go to:

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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