Nothing quite matches the sheer joy and sense of fulfillment that comes from volunteering – something that is being celebrated in particular during National Volunteer Week, April 18-24.
Here in Rimbey, there are plenty of folks who have gotten onboard with volunteering in some capacity, and the rewards are plentiful, explained Deana Harris, the coordinator of volunteer services with Alberta Health Services for the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre and the Bentley Care Centre.
She also sits on the Rimbey Volunteer Board.
“Volunteers are an unpaid workforce, and they don’t do it for the recognition – but they sure deserve it,” she explained, reflecting on National Volunteer Week.
“That’s the easiest way to say it! They save our community so much money in not having to staff those positions, which trickles down to everyone.
“It takes a special kind of person to put in the hours that they do and that just resonates with who they are. They are lovely to be around.”
Harris also pointed out how often she hears volunteers say that they get so much out of what they do. “It’s very selfless. Sometimes, I don’t think they even recognize what their contributions are.”
She also noted that most of her volunteers are retired residents who want to stay active, give back and stay connected to the community. “Something else I often hear at the hospital is, ‘I was here with my mom or dad when they passed away, and I just kept coming back after that to help’.”
According to Volunteer Canada, the National Volunteer Week theme for 2021 is ‘The Value of One, The Power of Many.”
“We recognize the value of the caring and compassion that each one has shown another, and we recognize the power of people, organizations, and sectors working together,” notes the web site.
“The theme is a nod to our past, a reflection of our present, and a wink to our future. The Value of One, the Power of Many was the theme for National Volunteer Week in 2001, The International Year of Volunteers.”
Harris, who is also chair of the Rimbey and District Volunteer Week committee, also emphasized that in a small community like Rimbey, organizations can be really flexible with volunteers.
“We accept and appreciate any little bit that someone wants to contribute,” she said. “We can make it fit with anyone’s schedule, and in any role that they want. We have a volunteer community in our town, so I know that if my (organization) doesn’t fit with someone, I will refer them to a different organization that may better fit with them. So we kind of share people!
“We want our volunteers to be satisfied – we want to ask them, ‘What do you want to get out of this? What are your volunteering goals?’ We will help you achieve those. It’s not just about what can we get out of you, it’s about what do you want out of this? We will help you achieve that!
“Whatever you are interested in, we can find you a spot in it.”
The aforementioned committee is made up of professional coordinators as well as volunteers in the community. This year, as was the case in 2020, there will unfortunately be no specific event during the week to honour volunteers collectively.
In the meantime, Harris said that she really enjoys connecting with people.
“They always want to share what brought them to this part of their lives – and I’m always interested in those stories. I also love seeing how volunteering impacts youth. I like to connect with them and watch them navigate their way through the volunteering experience.”
Jamie Coston is the volunteer coordinator with Rimbey FCSS, and she also sits on the Rimbey Volunteer Board.
“I think (National Volunteer Week) is so important because we have to thank our volunteers – they are the glue of our community; they are the ones going out connecting with people who need it. They are also helping the people that need help. Without them, our community is just an area or a town. But with them, it becomes a community,” she explained.
“People also get so much out of volunteering – you find people who need help, and then you find people who want to help them. And the volunteers get as much out of it as the people who need the help – it’s so reciprocal,” she added. “It’s an amazing thing.”
Coston said sometimes people hesitate to volunteer because they don’t think they have anything to offer. But that simply isn’t the case.
“We have tasks for everyone, and we appreciate everything (people can do),” she said.
“They are willing to give things up to help anyone in need – and at anytime, too. I could call a volunteer up at the last minute, and they will say, ‘Yes, I will be there’. And they are doing it for the good of the community; the good of people.
“It’s just so rewarding. You can’t replicate that feeling by doing anything else.”
For more about opportunities to volunteer in Rimbey, call Deana Harris at 403-843-7823 or Jamie Coston at 403-843-2030 ext. 4.