Until fairly recently, Buffy St-Amand wanted to join the foreign service. “My goal in life was to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs,” she says. So when she and her soon-to-be husband decided to move back to Canada from Tanzania, they tossed a coin. She wanted to go to Ottawa; he wanted to go to Calgary. Fortunately for this city, she lost.
“I had a narrow vision of what Calgary was all about,” St-Amand says. “But I’ve been here for 10 years and it is everything I want in a community.”
St-Amand says it wasn’t until she stopped focusing on the world abroad and turned her attention to the smaller world around her that she started to see the real big picture. “There is an innovative, entrepreneurial attitude in Calgary and a real movement of engagement. The best ideas and the best innovation come from engagement,” she says, referring to what happens when you choose to give your time to something you care about and believe in.
As manager of community development at Volunteer Calgary, St-Amand is tasked with building leadership skills in individual community members, students and non-profit organizations. She works directly with many Calgary businesses to establish volunteer opportunities for their employees, ranging from large group opportunities (a whole team spending the day working at a non-profit, for example) to more-specific, skills-based volunteering projects. In the latter arrangement, employees get the chance to develop their skills while benefiting a non-profit. “At Volunteer Calgary, we take pride in the fact that Calgary is the volunteer capital of Canada,” says St-Amand.
One key project St-Amand has helped to grow is Volunteer Calgary’s Community Service Learning program. The program pairs local organizations (usually non-profits) with a team of students and an instructor from the University of Calgary or Mount Royal University. Students then get to perform a service for the organization that is related to their field of study. In the past three years, St-Amand has expanded the program from working with one faculty instructor to seven faculty members.
St-Amand has always been at her happiest doing this kind of work, but she says everyone can find a way to make volunteering a part of their life. “The beauty of volunteerism is you can make it what you want it to be,” she says. “There is no perfect recipe. It is about doing things that move you, things you have to do because it’s the right thing to do.”
Why she’s a Top 40:
In addition to overseeing three major programs at Volunteer Calgary, she has led the development of its Community Service Learning, which now connects hundreds of students to volunteer opportunities.
The key to her success:
“It has to do with people. I am good at connecting people with ideals and ideals with people.”