Over the past two years, while many of us were stuck at home, others remained busy, continuing to provide services crucial to people in need in our communities - with no payment required.
Volunteers at food banks, meals on wheels programs, area fire departments, and more kept showing up. They thought out-of-the-box to raise funds for worthy causes, to ensure the much-needed services continued to be offered. While large walks and gatherings didn't take place, other efforts continued on virtually.
National Volunteer Week runs from April 24 to 30, and while a week is not near enough time to acknowledge the hard work that is done year-round by volunteers, it does give us a moment to reflect and appreciate how much volunteers do in our communities.
Volunteering can be tough. It can be tough to put your hand up, add your name to a list, and make that first commitment to helping out.
If you have a child registered in one of the many athletic opportunities available in communities across the Lakeland - from hockey to baseball to soccer or gymnastics - you know that there is a board behind each of those groups. They keep track of finances, they hold meetings, they keep registrations in order, they fundraise, and they do hundreds of other tasks that are just too many to name.
There are groups dedicated to the arts, there are groups that focus on offering opportunities to seniors, there are groups such as community garden societies that bring the community together. There are also groups that are crucial to the well being of those in need - such as food banks or animal shelters.
There are volunteers who organize large events to celebrate holidays, and there are those who organize large-scale fundraisers for cancer of multiple sclerosis, for example.
Sitting through countless council meetings over the years, I've become aware of just how many community organizations there are out there, and they all depend on a solid core of volunteers to get the job done.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2018, 79 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 reported volunteering, either as part of an organization or on their own. That's pretty amazing. With many groups back up and running, those volunteers are once again needed.
If you've never volunteered, I would encourage you to do so - there are so many opportunities. Of course, we all have our own limits on how much time we can dedicate to volunteering, and I personally have found myself overwhelmed by certain volunteer tasks. But, I've also learned over the years that there really is a job for everyone.
And if you can't volunteer, then please don't criticize those who do put their names forward to coach, act as board members, or canvas the community for fundraising support. Instead, offer them a thank-you.