Volunteer Spotlight – Joni Hamlin

Joni Hamlin’s is a familiar face in the RPPS community and beyond. Now community outreach coordinator for the Ottawa Children’s Festival, Joni has volunteered with Book Fair since 2010 and served six years on the Executive Committee – three of them as Chair!


Joni Hamlin with two of her finest co-volunteers


Born and raised in Ottawa, Joni says she’d never want to live anywhere else. We’re lucky to have her and her family as part of our school and local community. We asked Joni a few questions about herself, her history with Book Fair and her volunteer spirit.

You’re known as a dedicated volunteer – at RPPS and in the community at large. How did your volunteerism start?

I remember volunteering with my mother from a very young age. If there was anything going on at the church or in our community, my mother was involved somehow. Mom also volunteered at our elementary school. She would work with children who had trouble reading. I always remember feeling really happy and proud that my Mom was in the school and I think (and I hope) that my presence in the school has made my kids feel that way as well. 


Your whole family has been a big part of Book Fair for many years. What do you think children can learn from volunteering?

Volunteers raise volunteers. Kids learn by your example – it’s as simple as that. Imagine if no one volunteered to run the field house at Stanley Park. There would be no Halloween Howl, community picnic, hockey day, etc. Without dedicated community volunteers there would be no outdoor rinks, no food banks, no festivals – no Book Fair!


What skills did you learn in your work as a Book Fair volunteer?

I got a great deal out of my time with Book Fair. I think the most important skill I learned was how to coordinate volunteers – recruitment, coordination and retention. It’s the job I enjoyed the most and I was almost as good at it as Inge [Vander Horst, past Volunteer Coordinator] was. Coordinating volunteers is probably the most intensive part of Book Fair. So if anyone is thinking about volunteering but hasn’t acted on it yet, please do! Sign up for a shift or two and help take a little stress off the Book Fair Committee.


What is your favourite Book Fair memory?

My favourite memories of Book Fair are the friendships I gained. I began volunteering with Book Fair when my oldest was in SK and my twins where only a year old. I pushed them around in the stroller and delivered flyers door to door. I was probably the last volunteer to do that, but I really enjoyed it. By the time the twins were three, they were in the Book Fair room with me during setup. [The kids] were so welcome – all the volunteers were really good with them and they LOVED being in the school. By the time they started JK, they knew everyone and knew every nook and cranny at RPPS. Even after we’ve left the school community, my children and I will always remember Book Fair as being a very special event.


What are your non-volunteering hobbies?

I volunteered running playgroups for years and began work for the Ottawa Children’s Festival about a year ago. One of my favourite things to do is research fun and unusual children’s crafts and activities. I usually try things out on my kids and they enjoy taking part in anything I come up with. Before having children I worked in the Canadian wine industry and have my Sommelier certification. I love exploring the flavours and aromas of both wine and food. My oldest, now 11, enjoys cooking and we’ve had a lot of fun lately trying new recipes together. You should try his beef bourguignon!


Thanks, Joni, for all you do – you’re an inspiration!