First, let’s quickly work through just a few examples.
Pilley’s Island firefighters stayed out late on a Friday night. In January. With cold water. They ran hoses to spray icy layers, working towards providing the community a little skate rink of its own.
Church volunteers in Springdale raised the money to buy groceries and toys. Then delivered them through the cold, on the 23rd of December, so that some deserving families could have Christmas a bit brighter. So that more children could smile. So that some parents wouldn’t have to worry themselves to tears at night wondering how Christmas would happen.
A Saturday afternoon was given up by a whole entire group of young and old, to trundle on ATV in over dirt path and bog near King’s Point. So two heavy logs could be moved safely into place. So those logs could become a bridge. So hikers could safely hike a trail. And few of the people who went there to build the bridge even ever walk the trail. They showed up anyway to see the work done for the community.
There are Green Bay women who get up earlier, to go to school to make toast for little kids. There are Green Bay folks who groom the cross country ski trail. People organize the bingo. They stand in the cold in Green Bay South Arena selling tickets. Or build community garden plots in South Brook. And keep the church going in Jackson’s Cove. They log long hours at kitchen tables all over the area, trying to figure the heads and tails of the lengthy government funding applications… because you just know that money isn’t just going to arrive on its own.
The word ‘volunteer’ has long lost its meaning. It no longer, if ever, carries the weight of the gift that they give to our communities every week, and every year.
Without people stepping up in our rural Newfoundland communities to do community work without pay… our towns would have virtually nothing. No hiking trails, no special town day in summer. Perhaps no town councils. Perhaps no playgrounds. Some families wouldn’t have Christmas. The recreation centres would be dark.
In fact, your home could burn down.
If not for volunteers, who would launch out of bed at 3am and head out through a half foot of snow and get the fire truck out of the hall? And bring the equipment? And actually know what they were doing because of all the hours they gave up to training?
Yes. We need a word to replace ‘volunteer’. How about ‘community supporter’? Or ‘community builder’?
Yes. Something better is needed to describe our volunteers.
After all, they really do… so much for us.
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