Show appreciation and respect to volunteers

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By Ken Begley


Don’t ever question the value of volunteers. Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.
Unknown author
Every time I hear the words “and we need someone to volunteer to ...,” my natural reaction is to slink down into my chair and try to become either invisible or as small as possible so no one will look in my direction. It’s my experience that most people use this same method to avoid detection.
How do I know?
Because when someone does volunteer, there is a collective “sigh of relief” that “this too” has passed over us.
Come on!
Isn’t that the truth?
It is also true that Washington County has been blessed by a huge number of hardworking, pro-active individuals that make our lives richer in so many ways. These are our treasured volunteers and, quite frankly, if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t live in one of the most family friendly communities in the state, if not the nation.
They are everywhere doing what government can’t or won’t. We have to be careful to honor and respect these individuals for their efforts on behalf of the community. If we don’t, then we will be the losers if they ever quit.
That’s a fact.
I was reading the published letter to the paper from Mr. Jimbo Carrico and Mr. Dodie George last week. They’re the local president and secretary-treasurer of the Lions Club. Mr. Mattingly and Mr. George were responding to recent inquiries by the community as to why the Lions had the exclusive right to operate the concession stand out at the park for past couple of decades.
I do understand why people would want to know how this arrangement started and how it works.  However, like most volunteer activities, the history of it is probably lost to time.
You see, volunteers spend most of the activity actually performing service and not doing what government does best, which is creating red tape and huge expense. Some oversight is always needed when volunteers and government cross paths, but hopefully not too much.
Now here’s what was fascinating about the Lions Club letter.
It seems that the free labor of the 20 Lions Club members generated profits, which were then funneled to over a dozen other local charitable organizations.  It was everything from the Boy and Girl Scouts to the public library to the prevention of child abuse to the rescue squad to the St. Vincent DePaul Society for the Poor.
So, basically, the Lions Club has leveraged its volunteer effects by providing funds to a great many other local volunteer organizations. These organizations in turn use the money in their own activities that have a direct impact by helping the community. The end result is the Lions Club has an impact for good far beyond their small numbers.
It don’t get no better than that, folks.
In addition, the Lions also used the money to purchase glasses for 60 local people “every” year that couldn’t do so for themselves. I’m sure many are the elderly. This would mean a lot to me. I know what it’s like to be “blind as a bat” without glasses, and I can’t imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t afford a decent pair. I sure would hate to see one of our own suffering in that way and am grateful for the Lions’ efforts.
The only part of the letter I read that made me sad was the last line, which said, “As you can see, our work at the Idle Hour concession stand is not for our personal gain.”
Too often, we not only don’t thank our volunteers, but instead tend to “suspect” their reason for helping out in the first place, or demand much more of the volunteers as if they are paid servants of the government.
I’ve seen that a couple of times.
I was on the St. Dominic School Board once and we kept piling up more and more requirements on what we wanted our volunteer coaches to do, which seemed a bit much to me.  Finally, I looked over at the volunteer head of our athletic committee and asked, “Do you have an over abundance of people that are biting at the bit to coach all these teams?’
The athletic director replied, “Heck no. I have to beg people to coach as it is right now!”
Then I responded, “Then I think we better not make it any worse on the ones we have by adding too many rules.”
I remember another time about a year ago involving the Washington County Fire Department.  We seemed to keep demanding more and more of our volunteer firefighters and questioning their motives ,until the whole department almost quit in mass.  That sure was a near disaster, only avoided with the help of other volunteers that mediated the situation.
I guess the point of this article is not to show appreciation to the Lions Club, but to all of our volunteers. They are desperately needed.
Our nation is just beginning to go through tough times.  We have overspent on government with debt and will be paying the price for decades in reduced services.  What that means is organizations such as the Lions will become even more vital to places like Washington County.
So we should always tread lightly and respectfully around our volunteers, while not taking them for granted or demanding more from them than we do ourselves.
Take care my friends.