Ellensburg volunteer fair showcases various opportunities for students


MJ Rivera

Aaron Balagot, Mid-Columbia Fisheries.

MJ Rivera, Staff Reporter

The Pine Street event center was packed with CWU students, community members and over 25 local organizations and nonprofit groups for the Ellensburg Downtown Association’s volunteer fair on March 2. 

There was a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, such as community events, work in the arts and work in nature.

League of Women Voters of Kittitas County

The League of Women Voters (LWV), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was represented by the Program Director Tish Eaton and volunteer Susan Kelleher. 

“Our mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government and to influence public policy through education,” Kelleher said.

The league prepares presentations about current topics that would affect the voting constituents in the county.

“We go into schools and educate kids about how to vote and why it’s important,” Eaton said. “We do PowerPoint presentations in public high schools and we have programs once a month that deal with issues that are current.” 

Some recent program and presentation topics include Planned Parenthood, election integrity, county commissioners and environmental issues.

“We go to the county commission meetings, the city council meetings and we just observe and write notes about what’s happening,” Eaton said. “Our newspaper doesn’t always cover that, we’re kind of the watchdogs..

The LWV is always looking for volunteers for help with things such as registering people to vote at CWU and  the many events the league puts on.

Kelleher said anyone can sign up to volunteer on their website, kittitasleague.org, and that they are looking for new members and board members.

Ellensburg rodeo

Jon Morrow, one of the directors of the Ellensburg rodeo, said that they always need volunteers to help pull the rodeo off. 

“Out of 650 [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association]rodeos worldwide, Canada and the United States, Ellensburg is ranked number four,” Morrow said.

Volunteers can help in a variety of ways, such as being ticket scanners or ushers, helping with setting up and tearing down, driving golf carts, and helping with parking. 

The 100th anniversary of the Ellensburg rodeo is this year and tickets are already almost sold out, according to Morrow. Rodeo events go from August 30 to September 4.

Helen House

The Helen House is a safe space representing  sexuality, orientation, gender, identity and expression(SOGIE) youth and young adults. The house is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 – 6 p.m. for drop-ins.

Amanda Russert, the assistant director, said, “we want to get more volunteers in; that way, we can look at what other future programming things we can start putting into place.”

FISH Food bank

The Friends in Service to Humanity (FISH) food bank also had a table at the volunteer fair, showcasing many opportunities for locals and CWU students to help out.

Elise Warren, the volunteer coordinator and executive assistant for FISH, said that FISH has a food pantry and open-table meal services. They also do Meals on Wheels, which provides nutrition and medically-tailored meals to seniors.

Volunteers can work in the warehouse and stock shelves, work in the pantry and assist guests with selecting groceries, or work with Meals on Wheels driving and delivering meals to seniors.

Prospective volunteers can email [email protected] for more information.

Valley Musical Theatre

Jessica Black, the executive director of Valley Musical Theatre (VMT), said they have a lot of opportunities for college students to get involved. 

“It takes a village to put on a show,” Black said. “Everything from being not just on stage, but behind the stage. So, everything from costume or set design, lighting operating and props.”

Theater experience and knowledge is not necessary to sign up, as Black explained that community theater is for everyone.

“A lot of times we do trainings ahead of time, so if anybody is brand new in the theater and they’re wanting to get involved, that’s what community theater is about, to start to expose people to theater and give them an easy way to find a creative outlet,” Black  said.

VMT puts on three-to-four shows each year, Black said the upcoming summer show “9 to 5 the Musical” could be of interest to CWU students. More information is on their website www.valleymusicaltheatre.com.

Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group

Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group provides volunteer opportunities for those who love being in nature. 

Aaron Balagot, the restoration technician, supervisor and volunteer coordinator, said the organization is a nonprofit dedicated to salmon restoration. 

“We’re all around working on the Columbia and Yakima rivers and all the tributaries that connect to it, and it’s all for salmon enhancement,” Balagot said.

The organization has made some large-scale plantings and large wood installations in streams to create creek habitats for salmon.

Volunteers help with upkeep on sites as well as events throughout the year.

“Starting in spring, we do a lot of prep like mulching, picking up trash and taking tarps out of planting sites, Balagot said. “Then, as we move on to summer, it’s more watering and weeding, and then in fall, we’re planting.”

Balagot said he hires a seasonal crew every year and that getting involved with Mid-Columbia Fisheries would also be a good experience for college students interested in environmental science.

“We have a pint night over at the Iron Horse brewery on March 30, and we’re always looking for more volunteers,” Balagot said.

Community involvement 

Marcus Ashton, a CWU senior geology major, went to the volunteer fair with his roommates and friends from church.

“We are all just getting a little bit of our voices out there with volunteer opportunities,” Ashton said.

He said his favorite table at the fair was Mid-Columbia Fisheries.

“I just got a position with them, so seeing them here was pretty cool,” Ashton said.

Jerry Pettit, a retired county auditor and volunteer firefighter in the community, said he hopes the Ellensburg community will get a lot of volunteers.

Pettit was a volunteer firefighter for over 30 years, and he and his wife have been helping the community in various ways for over 40 years.

“We always need volunteers in the community, that’s something that I believe in,” Pettit said.”I’ve been volunteering in many things for a long time. It’s important for our community, to give back. That’s what makes the community what it is.”

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