Volunteers are the backbone of this town, helped by the generosity of the people who support them. This is quoted from a Tempo editorial from last year. It is as relevant to our community today. However, as times change, volunteer action and volunteers themselves evolve and change.
In TBL volunteer work is part and parcel of decision-making. Consultative committees of the town rely on volunteers to help carry out their work and influence key decisions affecting urbanism or the environment for example. We could list many more examples, such as social organizations (Lions’ Club, Food Bank, etc.), schools, where the work of volunteers is vital and could not be easily replaced or not replaced at all.
Unfortunately, the “professionalization’’ of many public activities is threatening the work of volunteers.
The ability and willingness to volunteer varies at different stages of life and the type of volunteer work is also apt to change. School age children are doing more volunteer work, from producing and distributing garden produce from their schools to raising money for community projects.
High school and university students have full agendas but many take time to contribute to their communities. Young working parents can be super busy and yet find time to help with their children’s activities.
It is probably safe to say that volunteers are often retired citizens who have contributed actively in their professional field and would like to continue in their retirement. Retired engineers, lawyers, architects and other professionals, many with important contact networks, sitting on volunteer boards of directors can be immensely valuable contributors. But, with the fast evolution of processes and regulatory requirements, even those professionals cannot keep up. Unfortunately, this trend adds to the cost of programs and projects that could once be handled almost entirely by volunteers.
Whatever the age of volunteers, they contribute to community life and receive personal satisfaction for doing so.
Let’s encourage them and resist replacing them too readily with professionals. Otherwise volunteer work could be in real danger and our community possibly its first victim.