Webster defines a volunteer as a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service such as one who enters into military service voluntarily or one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest.
Volunteers are a dying breed in this country. At least when compared to previous generations. We grew up in a household with both parents plus a grandparent. They seemed to be attending meetings all the time: Lions Club, Women’s Club, Library, Red Cross, House and Garden Tour, and Development groups. Then there was church with a Sunday School teacher, keeper of the communion set, and seamstress for the pageant costumes and girls’ choir. Basically, it boiled down to “if it was good for the community” then it deserved help from volunteers.
Both parents were on state and regional committees and organizations. Some had to do with the newspaper, some were appointed positions, but all were as volunteers.
When World War II broke out the former publisher volunteered to serve in the U. S. Navy and then stayed in the Reserves. Since then a brother, a daughter and a son-in-law also have been members of the military.
The volunteer gene passed down to our generation and kept us more than busy while trying to be an editor and parent. Some of the third generation is into the volunteer contributions. But, as we said, it’s a different world and volunteers are not as easy to come by.
[private] There are activities that desperately need volunteers. Some have had to be cut due to the lack of people willing to work and some may be cut for the same reason. Peru Community Center had to drop their summer ice cream festival. Heritage Weekend struggles some years due to lack of manpower. Firemen and emergency responders are shorthanded. Witness the problems on the East side of the county. CEOS clubs are struggling with shrinking membership as are some of our youth groups.
The volunteers we have are wonderful, but there are just so many of them and if you pay attention you’ll see the same faces appearing at many events carrying the load for those who do not volunteer. You will also see that our aging population just can’t do it anymore and a lot of the younger population just doesn’t seem to be able to find the interest or the time to volunteer.
We know that when there are disasters, you couldn’t want any better response to the needs of those affected. Remember the outpouring in 1985 following that November Flood and last year in the southern part of the state when they suffered a devastating flood. You can already see the response to the Houston area’s massive hurricane aftermath and it is already impressive. But as we learned in ’85 once the debris is cleared, the people rescued, and the mud washed away, these same Samaritans head back to their still standing homes and the victims are left wondering what to do next.
Volunteers. We looked at some numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, volunteerism has shrunk to less than 25 percent of all Americans. That’s down from 28.8 percent in 2005. In 1997, a survey done by ABC and the Washington Post found that 58 percent of Americans reported that they had volunteered for a church, a charity or other community group. From 58 to 25 — at this rate it won’t be long until there won’t be people to work fund raisers for schools, cancer victims, veterans, community theater, community beautification projects, parks and any of the other services we take for granted that are run and financed by volunteers.
Are you a volunteer or do you not have any interest in being one? Or do you claim you just don’t have time?
Might we suggest that you disconnect from your social media, turn off the TV, the iPhone, the lap top and the computer. Surely you can do without the electronic umbilical cord for several hours a week. Give back to your community. You know what? You may find that volunteering is a lot more fun and satisfying than Tweeting or Facebooking.
Are you a volunteer or willing to be one?