COLUMN: Volunteers offer vital contributions

Today marks the end of 2012 National Volunteer Week (April 15-21).

Today marks the end of 2012 National Volunteer Week (April 15-21).

The theme for this year was Volunteers: Passion, Action, Impact, with a goal of highlighting the vital contribution volunteers make to communities across Canada.

One of the aims of having a week to recognize volunteers is also to excite those who have never volunteered.

Talk to anyone who is involved in a volunteer activity and you’ll likely get a sense of their passion for it, regardless of the cause or pursuit.

You’ll likely also discover how much people enjoy spending time with other volunteers.

I’ve done a fair amount of volunteering in a variety of capacities over the years and can add my voice to the chorus – the rewards of volunteering are well worth it.

My commitment to unpaid work stepped up when I decided to join search and rescue in Ladysmith and the Cowichan Valley, and then again once I joined and realized how much I loved the work and enjoyed the people, some of whom have become close friends.

The countless hours (we keep track, and trust me, it’s a ridiculous number) I put into search and rescue (both in the field either training or on a call out, and as a director on my group’s non-profit society board) provide a sense of purpose and direction, and keep me connected with my community.

I’m passionate about my day job, which pays the bills, but it’s my volunteer job that is my passion.

I’ve no question many volunteers across the full spectrum of community organizations feel similarly, whether its canvassing for the cancer foundation, donating time to fight diabetes, cruising as an auxiliary cop, teachers taking time to coach after class, or sitting on city advisory committees.

No doubt, volunteering has cut into my free time for leisure or recreation or other pursuits, but it’s also become my leisure or recreation.

Our regular training sessions are necesary to keep our skills up so we’re ready for the eventual call outs, but they’re also necessary so the members of the group get a chance to catch up and socialize a bit.

Society board and committee meetings aren’t quite as much fun, but they’re just as necessary to keep that side of the organization improving and running smoothly. Without volunteers from within the group of vounteers to take on that work, it all falls apart.

Through volunteering, I’ve gained new appreciation for the sacrifices and commitments others make toward the betterment of their communities and the safety and/or benefit of their neighbours.

Volunteers are truly the heart of every community. Without people willing and able to donate their time, effort, skills and expertise, hardly anything would be accomplished.

In Nanaimo alone, there are literally hundreds of organizations dedicated to various causes, both local and international, in total involving thousands of residents.

If you’re a volunteer, take a moment to congratulate yourself on your contributions.

If you’re not a volunteer, give it some thought – it doesn’t take much to get involved (I bet at least one or two of your neighbours are part of a volunteer group) and guaranteed, there’s an organization involved in something that suits your particular interests.

Usually you get involved in volunteering in a couple of ways: you actually make a call or show up at an event and say you want to help; or someone ropes you in to help out here and there, for “no more than an hour or two a month”, and you get hooked.

Either way, once you’re involved, you won’t regret it. Your life will be enriched and you’ll get to know some great people.

If you’re looking for another way to get involved or find the group that’s right for you, go to Volunteer Nanaimo’s website at

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