Giving Back matches volunteers with needs



The Giving Back Fort Wayne Volunteer Fair will allow visitors to explore the many ways of serving in the Fort Wayne area.

The Leadership Fort Wayne Class of 2018 will host the fair from 3-7 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities’ Plassman Athletic Center, 3320 N. Clinton St.

“This type of fair [lets you] explore your options,” said Jennifer Bermejo. The manager of Production and Sourcing at Matilda Jane Clothing, Bermejo is a member of the Leadership Fort Wayne class. “I’m very, very passionate about giving back to the community,” she said. This will be her first time helping with the volunteer fair, but not her first work on behalf of community causes. As chair of the Giving Committee at Matilda Jane Clothing, Bermejo has worked to support the Allen County SPCA and has participated in the Women Build program with Habitat for Humanity.

Now in its fourth year, the Volunteer Fair is what Bermejo called a “heritage project,” meaning that a new team of volunteers from the Leadership Fort Wayne class organizes it each year. Planning for this year’s fair began in October, and Bermejo said that they meet once a month to continue the process. The many e-mails and phone calls between meetings ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The Volunteer Fair is open to anyone in the northeast Indiana region, or beyond. Interested visitors will find representatives and plenty of information from the various nonprofit organizations ready to add volunteers to their programs. Opportunities can range from working in the arts to working with animals and much more.

“It was news to me that [the Three Rivers Festival] is a non-profit organization,” she said. As a nonprofit, the Three Rivers Festival needs volunteers to help with all aspects of the event, from setting up to taking down and everything in between.

The Embassy Theatre also will be represented at the Volunteer Fair, looking for Embassadors. Bermejo said that being an Embassador might just sound like an ushering job — but these volunteers get to see a free show, too.

The Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation program also is looking for volunteers. This program helps to rehabilitate orphaned or injured birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles and owls. According to the Soarin’ Hawk website, volunteers do everything from avian care to facility maintenance and donor development.

The Volunteer Fair offers opportunities to people of all ages. “Some families like to do group stuff at the holidays, so they sign up for when everyone can be there,” Bermejo said. Attendees cover many age groups. “Kids, teenagers, the elderly… everybody [is] welcome,” Bermejo said.