Upon my return from the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention this September, I took the time to read the issues of the Nelson Star that had accumulated at our back door.
To my shock and sorrow the Friday, September 28 issue contained the obituary of Alie Jonker, a friend and associate who I had the pleasure of working with for the past two years. Ali was the epitome of a selfless volunteer that enriched the lives of not only the people who knew her but also the community she called home. As chair of the Advisory Planning Committee, she guided the Area F Official Community Plan until its adoption by the Board in January of this year. Her untimely passing gave me pause to reflect on the impact that volunteers have on our community.
The next time you go to a youth sporting event, observe a fire engine racing to a house fire with lights flashing, watch a Christmas concert, go for a walk on the lakeside walking paths, watch your child play in the Gyro Park pool or the Lion’s water park, skate on the Lion’s Park outdoor rink, enjoy our many hiking trails and downhill biking paths, turn your tap on (rural) or take yourself or someone you love to the new emergency ward for a CT scan, THINK of what makes all these things possible: VOLUNTEERS.
The last four years on the regional district board as director of Area F have opened my eyes to what makes this community a great place to live. It is the selfless commitment by a large number of dedicated individuals that want to make a difference by providing their time, enthusiasm, expertise and sometimes their lives, to enhance the community in which they live.
As an elected official we are always asked to do more with less. We therefore lean heavily on volunteers to fulfill the wishes of the electorate.
Without them we could not afford the services that we have come to take for granted.
What’s in it for them? They get very little thanks or recognition for what they do. Not only do they not receive remuneration but often take leave without pay or pay their own expenses when attending events or training (to make them “better” volunteers) workshops. Even though I have done some volunteering myself, the answer to this question remains somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps it lies in the saying that the best cure for depression is crossing the street to help someone less fortunate — it works!
Some people can’t find the time it takes to commit to a project. Some people lack the confidence to be part of a service club or charitable organization, but we can all make a difference, even if it’s helping an elderly neighbor shovel snow this winter. It’s all important.
So to all of you who strive to serve your neighbors and/or your community, and especially to Alie, here’s a big THANK YOU on behalf of Area F.
Ron Mickel is the Area F director for the Regional District of Central Kootenay