TUESDAY TALKS (II)

Today’s Theme: Do We Volunteer Enough?

While at a recent 100 Men event (a charity in Penticton where a group of men get together to hear from three [3] local charities each season and then vote for the one most deserving with the financial allocation results being 60% & 20%/20%) some of us began discussing the seeming lack of energy and commitment among men to really get into charity work. This came up because we have yet to get to one hundred men as members, and only fifty showed up that evening. At a donation level of $100/meeting and only four meetings a year, each participant is only on the hook for $400 dollars a year and a tax receipt is provided. The kicker is that all one has to do is show up at these seasonal events where you can buy a beer or wine to accompany free food, listen to the presentations, vote and go home. Maximum commitment is perhaps two hours. So here it is: 8 hours a year and $400 and no work or other volunteering yet I, personally, have been singularly unsuccessful at getting many people to join: two a couple of years ago, yet they seldom come now and aren’t paid up; one at the last meeting but I will bet he will be a strong member and may well recruit others. Thus I am still wondering why we don’t volunteer more… As a sidebar, it should be noted that the 100 Women, while they only charge $50 a gathering (also 4 per year) are over-subscribed and turn each of their events into a real night out – once again reminds me of my youth when church women seemed to operate everything (and run it all very well…). Maybe guys have been wrong about a great deal more in life than we ever want to admit, including that women do actually give more and do so more effectively…

Now there are service clubs in town that do good work. In particular there are two Rotary Clubs. I am not a member of either but I do help out occasionally with some of their projects. The noon hour Club is the larger one and consequently has some big projects; nevertheless one of its best fund-raisers in a huge ribfest during the summer, which this year is being cancelled due to insufficient number of volunteers. The morning group has a book sale that likewise raises some serious coin, but it too is in danger of being cancelled because of the lack of help. Now as most people know, Rotary supports a wide variety of programs and people, including its student exchanges. It also builds parks, water wells in poorer nations, and on and on. When a Rotary Club closes these programs suffer. There are some service clubs that I knew about when I lived here fifty years ago that no longer exist in this community. Why? Membership dwindled and finally the lights went out.

When I was a kid, not only were there service clubs but there were lodges & related women’s groups as well as massive networks of people support led by the numerous churches (and other faith groups) in the community. Well most churches have all but closed their doors along with all the social services they provided. Lodge-type organizations are seen as archaic and few people are joining now. Instead we seem to rely on governments to do what we used to do ourselves, and that seldom works as well, even when professionals are hired.

Personally I have found a niche of sorts. As part of my consulting firm’s package of services we did strategic planning; now I offer not-for-profits and religious groups the service on a pro bono (free) basis. For a while I was doing two or three of these workshops a year. It was fun and occasionally I even had some of my expenses paid. Not every group liked the final result, but my process ensures that it is their words that lead to the conclusions, so I always leave knowing that whatever they decide to do, they have at least had a good look at themselves. And maybe that is enough.

I also have volunteered to be on the local Strata Council. At first it was because I had a specific mission that several other owners shared – sell the dysfunctional clubhouse that no one used because it was a house and therefore not configured for useful community meetings. Once that was accomplished and our Contingency Reserve Fund was significantly enriched, I stepped down. But after seeing some serious decline in the connection between the Council and the membership I decided (along with another former member) to again stand for election. Both of us won, and through a serious of fortuitous happenings, we have ended up with a very vibrant Strata Council wherein each member takes on certain tasks and we continuously keep the members informed (as well as ensuring their concerns & complaints are promptly accommodated). We were re-elected at the last AGM – this volunteering has been both fun and productive.

So is this enough for me to lecture others to do more? No, and therefore that’s why I am not condemning people who don’t step up and help out, but I still ask the question: why not? If you can’t find a niche that draws on your particular skills then consider a service club. If you have been a leader in the past, look for a board or committee to join – at least you can help them steer or even oversee programs that will attract others to participate in various community activities. And don’t leave it all to the old & grey-haired crowd because then you won’t have had some valuable experience when you become older and your hair is less flamboyant.

If you do volunteer now, make sure others know about it. I know a young leader who devotes considerable time to promoting and supporting women in sport. There is a sense of volunteering that is way beyond the individual’s specific career and yet is bringing all kinds of energy and vision to a needed part of our world. I am aware of a former leader who now devotes much time to a Seniors’ Centre – again, bringing energy and vision but this time to peers. There is the retired minister who is helping smaller congregations. There is the retired bureaucrat who devotes time to the local food bank. These are just a few examples I know of; you may know of others. But we need to expand the number and the commitment of people willing to give of their time and energy – our world requires it, the next generations will benefit in ways we may not even be able to imagine!!

Do we volunteer enough? Not quite

In reflection,
g.w.

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