Volunteers are our life blood

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We humans have a vast blood vessel system that sustains our bodies. The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, US) says our arteries, veins and capillaries amount to 60,000 miles (96,560 kms) for a child and 100,000 miles (160,934 kms) for an adult.

Likewise, society is sustained by its life blood volunteers who are also astonishing in numbers. As it is National Volunteer Week (April 6-12) it is an appropriate time to reflect upon volunteers and how they touch over lives daily in numerous ways.

Our blood vessel system has highly identifiable arteries and veins. Similarly, some volunteers are highly identifiable. Yet, there are countless, capillaries-like volunteers who give so much all the time, and all too often, go unnoticed.

According to Merriam-Webster, a volunteer is "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service. And, voluntarily is a derivative of voluntary, "proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent.? And surely "unselfish" must go hand-in-hand with being a volunteer.

Sometimes we are asked to be a volunteer, while other times we seek to be one. Then, there are those who voluntarily take on new, difficult and formidable tasks that change life around us. Such volunteers truly deserve our admiration and respect.

Members of the Qalipu Mi'Kmaq First Nation Band, are where they are due to the volunteer leaders of the Federation of Indians who doggedly pursued native status for First Nation people on this island (outside of Conne River), a recognition that was shamefully denied when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.

Never mind kissing the cod; the first salmon caught each season on the Exploits should be ceremonially kissed as a show of thanks to the volunteer founders of the Exploits River Management Association.

Its volunteers aided and abetted the rebuilding of salmon stocks in the river system and the cleaning up its banks.

As well, we should be truly grateful for the volunteers who founded the Corduroy Brooks Enchantment Association. Their persistence now has wetlands, waterways, ponds, fauna and flora preserved within our town's boundaries. Future generations will certainly value their work and their great gift to all of us. 

Our schools are highly-depended-on volunteers. Teachers, pare-

nts, grandparents and even those childless give their time

freely ? thousands of hours ? to sports, proms, and many other

school-related activities. Many a weekend has been missed at home with volunteers away with sport teams and other groups.

As a graduate of St. Michael's High School, a part of the joy of being there was due to the extra hours the Brothers gave us with after school sports, band, choir, school dances and army cadets. An adult cadet leader, the late Jack Collins, a mill worker, gave many hours of his life to us on Friday afternoons, on parades, and Saturday mornings at the rifle range at the Armoury.

At St. Francis Xavier University I witnessed one of the most admirable volunteer groups I've ever seen. A small group of students, the X-Project, would board a bus in Confusion Square and travel to nearby towns to work with disadvantaged students.

Since my childhood days, this town, like many small towns, have been blessed with volunteers diligently devoted to operating fire departments. In latter years we have seen the arrival of more volunteers who are devoted to search and rescue.

Some volunteer groups carry the torch year in, year out, be it the Kiwanis Music Festival, Relay For Life, hospital auxiliary that has raised over $1 million for the hospital (a hospital kick-started in the early 1960s due to fundraising by volunteers, led by the late Tom Pitcher) and the Oddfellows? Dial-a-Carol, a fundraiser for hospital equipment.

Even the Salmon Festival, warts and all, owes its existence to the volunteers who initially started it years ago. And not to be forgotten is the volunteer service from former mill owners who opened Grand Falls House for guests and entertained hundreds of other guests with fine suppers at nearby logging camps.

In our churches many volunteers do so much, and not just to the benefit their own congregation. Hardly a week passes that a church group isn't involved in serving roast beef dinners, fish and brewis, breakfasts, flipper dinners, cold plates, bake sales and knitted goods all for purpose of using the funds to support those in need both near and far.

Church volunteers regularly live out the gospel by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and burying the dead at home and abroad.

Volunteers are always busy: they knock on our doors for charity donations; they form bands, choirs, drama clubs, arts groups, all of which make life more pleasing; they organize, set up and run sports programs for children and adults; they give their time to youth organizations; they oversee and run seniors clubs, heritage societies, museums and food banks; and they work for unions, political parties and serve on boards and committees.

The blood in our bodies is absolutely necessary, yet we could

live without volunteers. However, what a sick, sorry, lifeless,

spiritless place our communities, here and everywhere, would be without volunteers!

It isn't all sunshine and lollypops, however, as too few people are depended to do all too much. And thus, they experience burnout. The days of the many grey-haired volunteers are numbered and it's time now for the next generation to step up and replenish the ranks.

And as we pass by our cemeteries this week, let us not forget, there lies many of the volunteers of days gone by, the very ones, who helped to make life as good as it is for us today.

A tip of the hat, a salute, to all volunteers the big, the small and those hardly noticed or known at all.

Our lives are richer and our world a better place to live for all that you do. Thanks! And thanks again!


Andy Barker can be reached at abdp9@hotmail.com

Organizations: Franklin Institute, Qalipu Mi'Kmaq First Nation Band, Exploits River Management Association Corduroy Brooks Enchantment Association Armoury St. Francis Xavier University Oddfellows Grand Falls House

Geographic location: Philadelphia, US, Conne River Newfoundland Canada Kiwanis

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