Last week turned out to be My Week.
On Thursday Oct 18 the City and Community Futures handed out Volunteer Appreciation awards. Two were handed out: Outstanding Community Service and Volunteer Of The Year which is the one I was given.
This one is from the City. Back in 2013 I was given Volunteer of the Year by Community Futures. I should point out that the decision on who gets this is by ‘voting’ by the public, not some panel somewhere.
I’m very humbled by this for two reasons. First I know there are many more people in the community that do far more, give more hours and risk more to help their community than myself. Everyone in the Volunteer Fire Department and everyone in the volunteer Search and Rescue team for instance. Most people never see or meet these volunteers unless they are needed but because of what I do many, many people see my face and hear my name. Second, as I mentioned above, I received this accolade 5 years ago. It’s nearly embarrassing to get it again given so many volunteers put in so much to make our community function.
On Sunday the Boundary Historical Society awarded me Lifetime Membership.
The only qualms I have about getting this award is: Aren’t I a bit young for this? (I’m only 65 after all)
Laura Lodder also got one – she’s been a tireless volunteer in the History area of our community since forever. I moved here in 2004 and she was on the board of the Boundary Museum back then. I think she is again at this time as well as just having been the person responsible for getting Report #17 done. (I helped a bit with that 🙂
As the image at the top shows I often feel like that Ant trying to push the Elephant. And sometimes it almost feels like it budges 🙂
So after all that why is it I never really feel like I’ve done enough? Like I’m somehow shirking my responsibilities when I take a few days off to enjoy myself (or do something else)?
I don’t think I’m alone in that. I know there are a lot of people who volunteer a bit. And a lot who come out in emergencies when they are needed – saw a lot last spring with the sandbagging.
One of the regular refrains I’ve heard oft repeated at various things is ‘the same people show up [to volunteer]’. After a while you get to recognize them if only because they showed up to volunteer when you did OR you’re at some event and some of those same people are working at it.
I’d love to see more people coming out more often . . . if only so I wouldn’t get embarrassed again in 5 or 10 years with another volunteer award. But mainly because I think that the act of volunteering shows you care about something in your community so much that you’re willing to lend your back, time, creativity and body to helping it be a success. (getting in for free is okay but it kind of doesn’t count if that’s all you’re looking for)
But how to make that happen?
I know that the activity of volunteering shouldn’t burn you out. It may not bring enjoyment all the time but it should not leave you exhausted unless you feel that it’s worth it. It would be great if it could be fun, good if it could spiritually nourishing and okay if you’re getting something out of it even if you’re not sure what that is.
I know one person who has worked the volunteer coordinator role in a different community but, alas, she’s retired and doesn’t want to take on that role here. I get that. But I think that role would be a big help in a small town like ours.
Why the need for a volunteer coordinator?
The groups that utilize the services of volunteers are run by people. Often those people are themselves volunteers (many non-profit boards are volunteers). And others are ust the person who got the job. What I’m trying to point out is that just as humans aren’t born with the knowledge of parenting built in they also aren’t born with the knowledge of managing volunteers.
Volunteers aren’t employees yet some people have a hard time realizing that. This can lead to volunteers being wrongly deployed in roles that should be staffed instead. It can also lead to treatment that turns them off. Unlike employees, a volunteer has no paycheque to keep them coming back. Treat them badly and they don’t come back. Worse – they tell their friends what a bad time they had working for you. A bad rep is easy to get. but a very hard thing to get rid of.
Another thing I’ve heard of a number of times is how people move to town, show themselves to be volunteers, get snapped up by some group and then a year or two down the road are used up and burned out and stop being volunteers at all. Which is not good for them, the group they were with or any of the other groups in the community that need the support of volunteers.
And then there’s the spouses of volunteers. Not all of those want to come out and put in the same amount of time and effort. It would be nice if they didn’t get to feeling like volunteer-widows . . . maybe there’s a social gathering opportunity all by itself. Keep the home life from chaffing and maybe the volunteering spouse won’t experience that torn feeling.
Simple training in how to manage volunteers would go a long way to preventing these problems. Okay maybe training on being an effective trainer would help also. my late wife was very effective in that. Unfortunately I’m not.
But I keep hoping . . . and volunteering.