Volunteers make the rural world go round, or at least make for a well-rounded rural community. Without the contributions of the hundreds and even thousands of community minded men and women, life in our Manitoulin Island communities would be very drab and sad. This week municipalities across our Island will be feting their community volunteers and honouring the tremendously valuable contributions they make to their communities as we celebrate Canada’s National Volunteer Week.
From the ubiquitous local community halls and Royal Canadian Legions, often maintained through the auspices of numerous summer barbecues, fish fries, and spaghetti dinners, to the many services provided for seniors through volunteers such as the Reading Buddies program, which assists the elderly at Manitoulin Centennial Manor, the quality of life in our communities is enhanced by the efforts of volunteers.
The term volunteerism is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the act or practice of doing volunteer work in community service.” That the first known written usage of the term cited by Webster’s only dates back to 1844 is really not so surprising, for volunteerism traces its origins down through the millennia and the human race, forming the very foundation of civilization. Without the virtues of mutual cooperation and working together for the common good of the tribe, as a species humans would undoubtedly still be hanging about in trees and competing for the choicest nuts upon which to chew.
Thankfully, our distant ancestors learned the art of complex cooperation and, perhaps far more importantly, the virtue of altruism.
It has been said so often that it has become cliche to say that virtue is its own reward, but as this paper has learned through countless interviews with outstanding volunteers in the community, almost all volunteers say they get more out of their efforts than those they serve.
It is not only individuals or the less fortunate in our communities that benefit from the efforts of volunteers either. It has often been said that Little Current Lions Club’s Haweater Weekend is that service club’s gift to Island businesses, as the folks drawn to the August long weekend celebrations are central to making a profit in our all too short summer season. The same can largely be said of the many other homecoming weekends spread throughout the summer.
Without its cadre of volunteers the nascent Manitoulin Country Fest would never have left the concept board, nor would the dozens of traditional powwows that so enrich our summer experiences be possible.
Without volunteers the opportunity to participate in sports activities in every season would not be available for young or old, be it curling, minor hockey, soccer, baseball or volleyball.
Seniors would be left scrambling to reach medical appointments in far off communities and many of the traditional rural arts such as quilting and sewing would diminish and disappear from our ken.
We owe a great debt to those volunteers who enrich all of our lives and there is not a day that goes by in which we could not find an opportunity to reach out our hands in thanks.
Those who volunteer, tend to volunteer, and each and every table at the aforementioned municipal celebrations honouring their efforts tends to consist of folks who could stand up and collect dozens of certificates.
It may be said often, but it can never be said enough. To all of our community volunteers: thank you.