Thanks to volunteers for making our community better

By George brown, editor

What would Ponoka look like without the significant, selfless contributions made by volunteers?

Would this be a community you would choose as your home, as a caring community in which to raise your family, or where you would retire to enjoy the good life of your golden years?

Image, if you can, what Ponoka would look like without the services and projects services clubs and volunteers provide to improve our lives everyday. Now imagine what your property tax bill would look like.

From town councillors and firefighters, to legionnaires and Lions, from soccer moms and hockey coaches, to PTA leaders to church laymen, we depend on volunteers to improve the quality of life in our communities.

This in National Volunteer Week, that time of the year when we pause from volunteering to stand up, pat ourselves on the back and thank our neighbours for making the commitment. There’s a lot of personal satisfaction to be had in helping to build your community.

Volunteering gives us a chance to get away from the office, to get out of the house and to get involved. It helps us to feel better about ourselves and our community when we take an active role in its betterment.

More than half of Albertans are volunteers — but in small towns that percentage is generally greater. Typically, baby boomers volunteer more than other age groups and it’s obvious someone else will soon have to pick up the gauntlet if we are to maintain the same level of services we enjoy in our communities. It’s not enough that you give a $25 donation to avoid working the bingo or selling a coil of sausage door-to-door for your kid’s band camp. That just puts a greater burden on the shoulders of the volunteers.

We need you on the front lines.

Volunteer for your own reasons, not because you feel pressured to do so. And there are lots of reasons to become a volunteer. Clubs such as the Lions or Rotary offer fraternal and service opportunities and chance to build relationships that will benefit your personally and professionally. You can have a direct impact on your child’s education as a volunteer in the PTA or school board. Help protect your community by being a member of the Citizens on Patrol Society or Block Parents. Many people get into volunteering to develop a skill that turns into a career, such as being a firefighter or sports coach.

Today is always a good time to volunteer. When the economy is booming, as it was a few years ago, it’s tough to find volunteers because we’re all busy trying to make the most of our business opportunities while the pickin’s are easy. When the economy is in recession, some of our neighbours are working several jobs trying to make ends meet and business leaders are working all hours trying to keep the wolf from the door. This can be a frustrating time for service clubs because while projects in the community are sill priorities, there are fewer volunteers and less disposable income to see them happen.

Volunteers lend a hand for few rewards but Direct Energy and the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA) invite Albertans to help recognize the province’s remarkable volunteer spirit with the sixth annual Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award. The contest runs through National Volunteer Week and nominations close May 7.

The award itself consists of:

• $1,000 cash prize to the winner;

• $5,000 cash grant to the winner’s organization/cause of choice in their respective community;

• recognition of the winner’s achievement through a commemorative award, article and photo to be published in AWNA newspapers across Alberta;

• $1,000 cash grant to four semi-finalists’ organization/cause of choice in their respective communities.

This is a great opportunity to give provincewide recognition to our volunteers and to give a boost to a local organization. Nomination forms can be picked up at the Ponoka News office.

Volunteer. Make your life and your community better.