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Volunteers are roots of strong communities

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Sunny South News

Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News

National Volunteer Week has officially kicked off, as many local municipalities and organizations are extremely grateful and appreciative of the volunteers in their communities.
Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey said the county would not be the same without volunteers. “They certainly make a conscious effort to promote whatever organization they’re dealing with to make it a better place and make sure everybody in the community has an opportunity to be involved. I especially think of places like Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association — without people there, it would be impossible to run a place like that,” said Hickey.
What people seem to neglect at times, Hickey added, is to thank people for being a volunteer. “Sometimes maybe even take them a cup of coffee or whatever, some donuts out — just make sure they’re recognized for the valuable work they are doing,” Hickey added.
Picture Butte Mayor Wendy Jones believes her community has so many worthy volunteer organizations including the Elks, Lions, food bank, North County Health, Walk on the Wildside, Picture Butte Recreation and Cultural Society, Picture Butte Transportation Society, Friends of the Library — but these are just some of the organizations with a strong volunteer spirit.
“It is hard just to recognize one,” Jones added. Jones said each one of these groups puts countless volunteer hours into making Picture Butte the wonderful community it is.
Many of Picture Butte’s groups, such as the local food bank, provide a social safety net for the community — said Picture Butte Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Larry Davidson. “For example, the food bank was created by volunteers and local religious organizations who saw a need to help those who are facing difficult circumstances. Volunteers do so much in our community to improve the quality of life of our residents, such as donating time to organize kids’ sporting activities, support of our seniors, and sharing a passion or their knowledge with other community members,” Davidson noted.
Service clubs and volunteers, Davidson added, have also contributed to many of the recreation facilities. Picture Butte, he noted, directly benefits from the ongoing support of volunteers and volunteer organizations. “Picture Butte is blessed with a strong community spirit.”
Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig said the town counts itself as extremely fortunate to be able to work with so many different volunteers and community-based organizations.
“Without their support of community programs, initiatives and projects Coaldale would not be the community that it is,” said Craig.
Coaldale’s volunteers, Craig added, are priceless. “We simply couldn’t afford to pay for all the services, programs and projects they provide to our community. Volunteers have helped to build parks, playgrounds and town facilities,” said Craig.
Volunteers, according to the Coaldale mayor, help sponsor programs such as public skating every winter and volunteers also make it possible for the town to host a number of community events each year including Community Fest and Canada Day celebrations.
“Our annual Settler Days in Coaldale, hosted by the Coaldale and District Chamber of Commerce, is another community-based event that relies on volunteer support,” he said. “If volunteers are the roots of strong communities, as this year’s National Volunteer Week theme states, then I would say Coaldale is a ‘Mighty Oak’,” Craig noted.
Nobleford CAO Kirk Hofman said good things most often start with the unselfishness of someone doing something for others without any expectation of anything in return. “They volunteer their time and gifts to neighbours and the impacts on community result. Nobleford’s hospitality, beautiful parks, events, and social programs are a result of all those individuals sharing with others. As long as you keep the environment uncomplicated, I find volunteering is contagious in a very good way,” Hofman added.
According to Diana Sim, executive director of Volunteer Lethbridge, the theme of National Volunteer Week this year is “Volunteers are the roots of strong communities” — and, that’s important to notice.
“Especially this week we’re celebrating 12.7 million Canadian volunteers. When you think of that many people volunteering, it shows quite an impact of what volunteers do in our nation and in our communities,” Sim said.
Sim believes volunteers build and strengthen a healthy community. “Everybody who wants to engage in some volunteer activity really is giving of their self to build that strong community. I think it’s just an important time to really recognize volunteers do make an impact. The motivations of why people volunteer are all different but I think a lot of people volunteer to gain experience or give back to the community. But, still it’s important, especially during National Volunteer Week to remember to recognize people who give up their time and their talents,” added Sim.
Volunteer Lethbridge, which also works with volunteers in Lethbridge County, is also promoting micro-volunteering. Micro-volunteering, Sim said, is focused on doing something small that makes a difference.
“Maybe taking the neighbour’s garbage out, maybe washing the neighbour’s windows, doing an errand for someone or taking someone a meal — volunteering doesn’t have to be big and a scheduled event. It can be something people just do randomly to build stronger relationships and to encourage people,” Sim said.
All communities rely, to some degree on volunteers, said Barons Fire Chief Byron Fraser. “The value of these volunteers is irreplaceable. The time, commitment, and dedication volunteers give their communities is commendable. Those who give their time to their communities do so with the intention to better their community, and to help those in need,” Fraser said.
Volunteers, Fraser added, don’t volunteer for recognition or fame — volunteers complete the necessary tasks to help the community. “Because of this, it is extremely important to acknowledge the hard work, commitment and sacrifices of these individuals,” Fraser noted.
According to Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig, Coaldale’s volunteer fire department provides first-class emergency services to the community and volunteer fire fighters willingly leave their homes, work places and recreational activities — at all hours of the day and night — to answer calls for help. “Their employers are to be commended to allowing them to respond to calls during business hours, they are truly good corporate citizens,” said Craig.
Volunteer fire fighters and EMS workers, according to Amy West — are just regular people with families, friends, and jobs — who made a decision in their life they wanted to help others. “What most people don’t realize is these men and women put in an extensive amount of time training to be able to meet and exceed the standard in fire protection, and emergency medical services, to provide a vital service to their community,” added West, deputy fire chief and EMS team lead with Picture Butte Emergency Services.
West noted volunteer emergency workers in Picture Butte, as well as in surrounding communities, dedicate a great part of their life to developing their skills and knowledge for little to no reward other than the satisfaction of being able to give something back to their community.
“And make a difference to the people around them. National Volunteer Week is a great opportunity for us all to take a moment of our time to recognize our volunteers and say thank you for all that they do,” said West.
Volunteers are important to smaller communities that need to have a fire service for protection of the town, said Coalhurst Fire Chief Mathew Conte, but the population base makes having a full-time department not possible.
“Most departments rely heavily on volunteers for this purpose. In an ever-growing world, people become busier and busier with family, work and other commitments — which makes people just not have the time required to volunteer. A need to recognize them for their dedication is very important. This helps gives volunteers a sense of accomplishment for the work they are doing. Recognition can be as small as a yearly banquet to handing out years of service awards,” said Conte.

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