Where have all the volunteers gone?

The community and district witnessed the heroic efforts volunteering makes in times of a pending disaster. From May through mid June volunteers from less than five years of age through to octogenarians hefted shovels, carried sandbags, built dikes along streets and homes and went home after a gruelling day to aches and pains being fully prepared to get out of bed the next day and repeat the exercise. The only pay they received was knowing that a friend, neighbour, or the community was being protected. They shared in a common purpose with others laughing, joking about the tasks they were performing.

Recently there was a “Facebook” posting complaining that the community had not created any celebration for Canada Day. As I remember that day, the Fort Frances Legion organized two parades on Canada Day, the first with floats and decorations and the second a children’s parade where children road their bikes, and trikes or dressed in Canada Day colours and walked from Victoria Avenue to Portage applauded by hundreds in those two blocks.

The celebrations moved to the point where Jaycees organized family day activities, bathtub racing and then treated the community to fireworks display that shot off over the waters of Sand Bay. It was all through volunteerism. The Jaycees no longer exist. The Kinsmen who organized music, dancing and a beer garden in the Arena no longer exist.

During that time The Fun in the Sun Committee was formed, and it too has dwindled in size as fewer and fewer volunteers came forward to create activities for the community. The Legion surrendered the Canada Day parade. The Rotary Club that organized and held the Santa Claus parade have ceased to exist. The BIA of Scott Street has taken over that task. And today there are fewer merchants on Scott Street.

One only has to look a few miles down the road. The Communities of Chapple and Emo had many activities for children and families on Friday. Those communities continue to have a dedicated group of volunteers stepping forward to create community events.

Volunteers will make the 123rd Annual Emo Fall Fair happen again this year. With the announcement that the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Tournament would again happen this year, volunteers have already began asking where they can help. When the tournament and community celebration began in 1995, over 400 volunteers came forward to create the week-long activity.

Many of the community activities have gravitated to having the Town of Fort Frances either run them or contract out the organizing of them. The town is dependent on volunteer groups like the Friends of the Library, Friends of the Museum to raise funds. If it hadn’t been for volunteers, Fun in the Sun, The Canadian Bass Championship, The Ice for Kids arena, the Townshend Theatre, the Swimming Pool, the “Care Close to Home” hospital projects, and this years “Picture This” campaign would not be part of our lives today. Minor Hockey, figure skating, swimming, soccer, Girl Guides, music and drama festivals would not exist without volunteers.

We can’t complain about Canada Day in Fort Frances if no one steps forward to assist in creating the celebration. We can’t afford to stand back and put all those responsibilities for community activities on our elected council members. If one feels that an activity is needed, then sound the horn, let others know, and organize with like minded persons to make it happen.

A vibrant community is filled with volunteers every day and not only when disaster is pending.

Former Publisher
Fort Frances Times