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Volunteers a backbone of community

Many years ago, in my first piece as a rookie reporter, I called volunteers the “quiet underground.” It was a reference my editor, as a product of the Vietnam era, found unnerving. He took it out.

Now, decades later, I am pleased to declare that he was wrong.

Volunteers are indeed an underground, as powerful as any political or monetary force in the creation of a community. It’s their tireless work that gives a community its beauty, compassion and new opportunities.



Volunteering, in fact, may be the strongest of all movements because volunteers take a jurisdiction and shape it into a community or a neighborhood.

Last weekend, I was reminded just how powerful a force were volunteers. I watched as about three dozen people accomplished a remarkable feat – creating a film festival at the South Shore. Led by the crusading spirit of Denise Sloan, who gave more than two years and countless nights’ sleep to make a crazy idea a wonderful reality, the volunteers showed just how much could be accomplished with sweat equity and camaraderie.



As I observed this tiny army in full force, I started looking around and listening – the Barton Hospital Auxiliary member staffing the front desk, a volunteer who for five years has been in charge of arranging transportation for cancer patients, the organizers and coaches of Little League.

Everywhere, it seems, is evidence of the power and impact of volunteers. Look around – The Cancer League, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, The Tallac Association, PTA boards, the Women’s Center. The list goes on and on.

It is amazing how much people will give and how hard people will work to accomplish something they believe in, to change something they want changed or create something they believe is for the betterment of everyone.

Each day, volunteers – from Meals on Wheels drivers to crisis telephone monitors – make the difference in this community between those that are forgotten and those cared for. Each week, service clubs meet, socialize and get the ball rolling for miracles to happen. Each month, the ceaseless contributions of volunteers add up to countless hours of manpower and brainpower.

Quietly, volunteers care for the sick, the impoverished, the addicted, the convicted, the young, the old and the four-legged among us. They create the events, coach the children and blaze the trails.

The gift volunteers give is the most precious of any one human can give to another. It is the gift of time. And it is a gift that is becoming more precious each day. Time is an unrenewable resource, limited by our busy lives and many duties. To give it away is to give one’s self.

What could be more powerful than that?

Claire Fortier, the Tribune’s opinion page editor, can be reached at fortier@swiftnews.com or (530)541-3880, ext. 221.


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