More people needed to keep carrying the torch

I was asked a rather troubling question last week. The person was wondering what it would take to find the volunteers who are needed today—and will be needed in the future.
Following the Canada Day festivities, I heard from many that they were upset that little happened at Pither’s Point Park this year. They were complaining there were no food booths, or activities for children, teens, and adults.
They wondered who was in charge because they wanted to complain about the lack of July 1 activities at the Point.
This is one example about the fallout of volunteers growing tired and retiring from activities. It takes an organized group of volunteers to co-ordinate a day of activities with food vendors at Pither’s Point Park.
It just doesn’t happen by magic.
Kitchen Creek Golf Course, the Fort Frances Curling Club, Riverside, Family and Children Services, the Fort Frances Clinic, and every church in town depend upon volunteer board members.
The Town of Fort Frances, as other municipalities in the district, depends upon volunteers to fill many advisory positions looking after everything from recreation and roads to planning, and more. Clubs like the Aquanauts, Border Figure Skating, and minor hockey also depend on volunteers for their existence.
The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship relies on a board of 12 who work year-round to plan the week of activities, and then on 400 volunteers during the week of the tournament.
Scouts and Girl Guides depend on volunteers for those youth programs. Many employee groups also have volunteer executives that work on behalf of their fellow employees.
The person suggested I look at the average age of the majority of the people sitting on those boards across the district. It is kind of frightening to see the age very much matches the median age of the district.
He wondered who was going to take over from those young seniors.
Often serving on those boards and commissions carries legal risk for the volunteer. Sometimes it even includes public ridicule, and I’ve heard more than one person say (tongue in cheek), “I must be crazy to be volunteering for this.”
Yet, they are totally committed to the activity and believe their volunteer effort makes a difference in the community.
Governments don’t hold community festivals. Governments rely on groups to assist in funding arenas, libraries, hospitals, and parks. Governments look to service clubs and community organizations to do the legwork of planning, organizing, and creating those facilities.
With community participation, governments then will step in with the final cash.
At one time, Fort Frances had a Rotary Club, a Kinsmen Club, and Jaycees, as well as a Lions Club and Kiwanis Club. Across the district there were several Kinsmen and Lions clubs. All were committed as service organizations to making their community better.
Today in the Fort, only the Kiwanis and Lions clubs remain.
The province mandated that all high school students had to perform 40 hours of volunteer service to the community in order to graduate. It was the hope of the Ministry of Education that in volunteering, students would appreciate the experience and look to volunteer in their communities in the future.
Most volunteers will tell you they receive more in personal fulfillment from any job they perform volunteering. It is often why you see the same people volunteering for many different organizations across the district.
Many of those volunteer positions require time and commitment away from family and the community. And in accepting those volunteer responsibilities, the families of those volunteers and their employers also become part of the volunteering team.
I still don’t have an answer for that person, but it has me wondering, too, about who will carry the torch for activities like Fun in the Sun, the fishing tournaments, the district fall fair, the hospitals, the Chambers of Commerce, and the many youth clubs and churches across the district.
I do know every group in the district needs new and younger people to begin assuming the reins. It is never too late—or too early—to start volunteering.

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