Volunteers make big difference in community

It may start off small, but volunteering can quickly expand.

National Volunteer Week 2012 takes place April 15 to 21, 2012. The theme for 2012 will be Volunteers: Passion, Action, Impact. The theme highlights the vital contribution volunteers make to communities across Canada.

One of the focus points of this week of promotion is to excite those who have never volunteered before. Usually you get involved in volunteering in one of two ways. One way, you actually make a call or show up at an event and say you want to help.

The other way is that someone lies to you and says something like, “Hey, could you give me a hand with this event, it will be maybe one meeting a month and two hours tops.” They promise you a T-shirt and pepperoni pizza and you are in the group. Too late, you find out that the sub-committees, the task groups and the focus teams meet more than once a month and your life is slowly changing.

If it happens to be a sports team and you come out for “a couple of hours to clean up the field,” and the assistant coach notices you drive a seven-passenger van or a big station wagon, he will immediately point that out to the coach. Then, even if your child is a marginal athlete, he or she will make the team because they need that vehicle to get kids to Mission, Coquitlam or Chilliwack.

Oh sure, it will cost you a lot of gas money, but you get to really know the kids over the season. You know which ones have tiny bladders, which ones should never be allowed to eat at McDonalds and, if you listen closely to the back seat conversations, you find out a lot of what is going on at home.

Of course every volunteer group has some sort of fundraiser. Maybe it’s selling hot dogs at the mall, or maybe a full-blown event that you end up planning, attending and selling tickets for. Then there’s the good old raffle tickets.

Usually, the team Mom or the fundraising chair will phone you and tell you the raffle tickets have to be in tomorrow. Now you have to find the book of wrinkled tickets in your purse or console, put your name on the remaining eight ticket stubs, attach a $20 and hand them in. At the event, you are expected to buy at least one silent auction item. It is not cheap being a true volunteer.

Something simple like manning a barricade or parking cars sounds pretty tame. Unless it pours rain or the sun glares down at 90 degrees all day. You learn that there are many folks who do not share your passion for the event and your barricade is an obstacle to their day. They may speak harshly of you and your mother.

But the rewards are endless. You had to buy the jacket or wear the pink hat, but hugs and handshakes feel pretty good when the season is done or the event has been declared a success. I love when it when I’m in the grocery store and one of those kids from that long ago back seat comes up and says, “Hi Hawkeye,” or “Hey Coach” or “How’s it going Chief?”

The Langley Walk needs volunteers, Relay for Life needs volunteers, give them a call. After all, it’s only a couple of hours out of your day.

At least that’s what McGregor says.

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