Volunteer Blog: Melanie and the Calgary Stampede Caravan

Passion, commitment and early mornings describe Melanie Davis, six-year volunteer with the Calgary Stampede Caravan Committee. Her strong sense of civic pride and a family connection led her to become heavily involved in the committee, one she’s unequivocally delighted to be a part of. But with the committee demanding that volunteers be available for events that have shifts beginning as early as 4am, you’re probably wondering what the draw is.

For Melanie, it’s simple: to give back.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Caravan Committee, for 35 years the group of approximately 130 volunteers have hosted pancake breakfasts throughout the city during Stampede and year-round. Their roots can be found in a 15 person passenger van, back when pancake batter was mixed with hockey sticks. Nowadays the Stampede Caravan visits places like Montana, Washington, D.C., Quebec City, Toronto, England and Hong Kong. It has grown into a revenue generating component of the Calgary Stampede business. Everything from logistics, to transportation, storage and food handling – Stampede Caravan is a well-oiled machine.

But in Melanie’s own words: “I just want to show up, have fun and flip a few pancakes with pals.” (Melanie personally flips close to 10,000 pancakes in the run of a year.) She firmly believes that this type of volunteering deeply affects the community in a positive way. Each year the committee ventures into Calgary neighbourhoods and set up at local community centres and shopping malls offering locals free breakfast and entertainment. (In one week of Stampede, they feed close to 100,000 people!)

During the 2013 Alberta Floods, the Stampede Caravan showed up to a camp in Kananaskis to literally feed the army. They also set up shop in Mission and at the Siksika Nation and fed as many people as they could. On top of external events, each year Melanie takes one week of vacation to fulfill her commitment to the Stampede. In the last six years, she’s only missed one pancake breakfast because her sister was having a baby. But she didn’t really miss it because she ended up taking her niece out to it, she just wasn’t volunteering at it.

The deep familial ties can be seen through several generations of families volunteering side-by-side, “We’ve got three generations of family on the committee. It shows our pride in heritage and community,” she said. “And my father is vice chair, my uncle is chair and my mom and my sister are both volunteers on the committee. It’s an opportunity for us to volunteer and spend time together. It’s a good family experience.” She also enjoys the extended family a large committee offers. In fact, in a weeks’ time she and twenty-plus committee members will visit Canmore for a fellow volunteers wedding. While there, they’ll also be putting on a pancake breakfast for guests!
Currently, there are no plans for Melanie to take on an executive role like her father and uncle, but she’s happy just where she is and closed with, “I just like flipping pancakes!”

Ever wonder what a day in the life for a Caravan Committee member looks like? Check it out!

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