By Cathy Burke and Jill Zacharias, Revelstoke Community Futures Development Corporation Volunteer Committee
Can you imagine what Revelstoke would be like if no one volunteered? Just think about it for a moment. Think about a community without all the volunteer-based clubs, teams, groups, organizations, non-profits, events, committees, and … the list goes on. One hesitates to even go there. Fortunately for all of us, Revelstoke (and area) has a history of volunteerism that is still going strong. In both 2007 and 2012 Community Surveys, 77 per cent of respondents said they were members of “a group, club or organization in Revelstoke such as recreation/sports, artistic/craft/hobby, business/work-related, educational, community service, spiritual or cultural groups.” The community survey also asked “Do you volunteer?” In 2007, about 64 per cent said yes, compared to 65 per cent in 2012. After much research, we determined that this translates into about 145 community organizations and (by our best estimate) an astounding 4,000 volunteers.
The personal benefits of volunteerism are numerous. It is a way to meet new people, network and gain connections, boost your resume, learn new skills, gain confidence and a sense of achievement. In fact, there’s even research that shows that people who volunteer are generally healthier, leading to the adage ‘feel good by doing good.’ Often volunteering can be a bridge to employment. For new residents, it’s a great way to establish yourself in the community.
Inevitably, we think about the bigger picture. When we think about volunteers and all the work they do, things like the ‘hidden economy’ or the community benefits of strong social networks and diverse opportunities come to mind. But what it really boils down to is that volunteerism is the life-blood of a community. It can start with a group of friends with a common interest or a handful of parents and their kids. Then more people are recruited and the need for some sort of structure arises. Perhaps the club is given a name or a non-profit is formed. An idea or passion grows and becomes a reality.
Volunteering and the community benefits can take many forms. Remember the Emergency Services Food Drive last fall where a group of volunteers came together and was able to generate 4.5 tonnes of food and over $6,000 in donations? Do you realize that about 75 volunteers sit on city committees, providing input and guidance on a regular basis to the City of Revelstoke on everything from heritage to economic development?
Further, have you ever thought about those who go above and beyond the call of duty at work? There is a fine line that blurs and ‘work’ becomes ‘volunteer’ because people love what they do, or they see a need and step in to fill it. Teachers are an excellent example. All the ‘little extras’ at school represent volunteerism – sports teams, including coaching, driving, co-ordinating tournaments; school trips, chaperoning dances, grad preparations, student council, science fairs, one on one tutoring before or after school and at lunch, after school band practices, math or literacy nights, and all clubs (such as chess, running and writing). Yes, it’s all teachers (as well as some support staff) volunteering their time. Not to mention parents!
Community Futures has developed a couple of tools to help promote volunteerism in Revelstoke. At the Revelstoke Community Centre, there is a bulletin board where you can either post your need for volunteers or check out volunteer opportunities. You can do the same thing online at http://www.revelstokecf.com/volunteers/posts/postings.php.
As well, Community Futures is once again accepting nominations for THE SPIRIT OF REVELSTOKE AWARD. Do you know someone who has made an outstanding volunteer contribution to our community? Eligible volunteers can be any age and their volunteer contribution must be significant (see related ad). I’m sure we can all think of someone who fits the bill. Awards will be given out at the Revelstoke Volunteer Fair this fall.
To me, volunteering means people supporting people – each a vital thread in the fabric of our community – on principle, donating time and energy for the benefit of the community as a whole rather than for any financial reward. Kind of warm and fuzzy, isn’t it? Happy National Volunteer Week Revelstoke!