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One of CKUA's hard working volunteersVolunteerism has long been a by-word for CKUA's operations. Over the years, they have assisted in the fund-raising drives, served on the board of directors, maintained the record library and other areas in the Edmonton station, and even promoted the existence of the network throughout Alberta and abroad.

"They are involved in the fund-raising campaigns, station support in which they volunteer inside the station, and with the chapters outside Edmonton," says Maureen Workman, the network's Edmonton-based volunteer co-ordinator who estimates that there are 800 Edmonton volunteers, with another 300 to 400 spread throughout the province.

On occasion, the volunteers can form a potent lobby group, especially when the network is threatened. Such was the case first in 1994, when listeners formed Friends of CKUA (FOCKUA) in the midst of the provincial government's plans to cut its funding to the network, and again in 1997 when the station went off the air. The latter event prompted not only the formation of the province-wide Save Alberta Public Radio Society (SAPRS), but also an increase in the volunteers to the network.

"The shockwave of the network's going off-air in March 1997 was a huge wake-up call," says Bonnie Jamha, who since the spring of '97, has worked on CKUA's web-site and the music library, acknowledged as one of North America's largest and most eclectic repositories of recorded music. "We just about lost it! I was traumatized by that event and became determined that I would make a contribution, not just of my money, but also of my time."

Jamha, in fact, first approached her volunteerism as any listener would. "The attraction to me was that CKUA is the most eclectic radio on the planet, and the staff, particularly on-air announcers, were celebrities to me. So, I would get to contribute in supporting and enhancing CKUA's ongoing activities, plus interact with these individuals who held high status in my eyes. Those goals have been fulfilled for me in spades."

Wes Denison is the president of the Edmonton chapter, and a shift leader during CKUA's annual fund-raising campaigns.

"I am particularly active leading up to fundraisers since I train the other volunteer shift supervisors and co-ordinators for the fund-raisers," says Denison, whose pro bono life also includes the Northern Alberta Co-operative Housing Association (NACHA) and the Edmonton World Social Forum. "During the fund-raiser I work all the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekday shifts as a supervisor. This changes this time since I have taken the midnight to 6a.m. shift on both Thursdays."

Ironically, the one commodity in which there seldom seems to be a shortage is in the volunteers themselves. He says the myriad attractions for CKUA volunteers stem from the incorporation of the station's offerings into their daily lives. He can see two rationales for drawing new volunteers.

"If you care about music and the programming of CKUA and would like to have
a wide variety of experiences with a community that feels exactly as you do, then volunteer for CKUA. Or, if CKUA is important to you then the only way you can guarantee that she will continue to be there for you is for you to be there for her.

"However, I have never had to go in search of new volunteers; they come to us on their own initiative. I think this is because CKUA is a tangible result of our volunteering. Where else can we point to something and say it exists because of the continued work we do and the volunteering we do has an immediate positive effect on my life?"

Some of the longest-serving volunteers are also among the most seasoned listeners to CKUA. Marian Crawshaw is a station support volunteer in the network's donor relations department. She and her husband Dick have been listening to CKUA for more than 40 years, and their radio volunteerism began more than a decade ago.

"It opened up a whole world for me when I was exposed to such a wide variety of music!
We first began volunteering at CKUA in 1993-94 in a response to a radio request that we
heard shortly after we retired. As the station had given us so much pleasure over the years we wished to give something back."

Since then, the couple has held duties ranging from clerical - filing, answering telephones, computer data entry - to providing hospitality during the fund-raisers.

"I've remained involved with the station for many reasons, the most important being that
I believe in the concept of public-supported radio and feel that CKUA is doing an excellent job in this area. I value the friendships that I have with the volunteer co-ordinator, other volunteers and staff. They are special and dedicated people and the station reflects this. I have always felt that what I've been asked to do has been appreciated, and have constantly received training, feedback, encouragement and thanks (both verbally and written)."

So, what is it that keeps these three working…and for free, no less?

Bonnie Jamha sums up her feelings in a way that shows that giving something for nothing can be the most priceless gift.

"As for doing it free, my ongoing mantra at CKUA is: 'Please don't make me be on the payroll!' Money would change everything. I could never volunteer again the way I do now," she explains. "Everyone loves a volunteer who contributes meaningfully to the organization; it's a completely rewarding endeavour with continuous ongoing positive feedback. It's perfect."


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