Volunteers make communities

Communities are a team effort made up of volunteers. If you aren't part of the team, you aren't part of the community.

Big things start with tiny, vague ideas. Big, impossible things like music festivals and country fairs, parades, car shows and car racing…

One tiny idea and a volunteer to start planning it.

Pretty much every activity we have in our small towns are created by volunteers who give them to their communities for free.

I read a figure earlier this week (Dec. 5 was International Volunteer Day) that over 13 million Canadians volunteer over two billion hours of their time and effort for others. The value of volunteers’ time in Canada is equivalent to 1.1 million full time jobs annually.

Not only that, but 36 per cent of seniors perform volunteer work, with volunteers over 65 contributing about 223 hours a year, compared to the national average of 156 hours. I’d add that around here, that number is probably at least twice as high.

Of course, most often when we think of volunteering, we think of events or sports, but there is also assistance to others such as the Elizabeth Fry Society and the Better At Homes Program offer to others.

“I’m too busy”; “I volunteered enough while my kids were growing up”; “Why should I?”

We have a lot of volunteers in our communities. Some of them stick with one group or one type of group, lending their expertise, while others give their time to several.

But there’s room for more. Lots more room. Volunteers are thrilled to see their communities enjoying or benefitting from what they offer. At the same time, many worry what will happen to “what they offer” once they move on – because no one can go on forever.

Sometimes others step up to the plate and take over, sometimes the activity just drops off into oblivion.

Involvement is what makes a community. It builds connections, it builds skills, and it leads to more great things.

It’s sad to see people who absolutely refuse to get involved because they’re usually the least connected to their communities.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

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