April 19th - 25th is National Volunteer Week. Perhaps now more than ever, the importance of volunteering is not just something to be celebrated but something to be truly cherished. The groups of volunteers who we would typically see in our local rec fields with rakes and shovels in their hands are now standing a minimum of 6 feet apart, wearing masks over their mouths and noses, and swapping out their shovels for brown bags packed with lunch food for families across Addison County. Instead of clearing brush at the Rokeby or assembling a shed at the Boys and Girls Club, volunteers are drivers for the Meals on Wheels program or sewing face masks for migrant farm workers.
Needless to say, the definition of “volunteer” has changed in the last couple of months and the qualifications to volunteer have gotten very specific. Before the pandemic, placing volunteers was relatively easy and now placing volunteers comes with a thorough checklist to read through, similar to the ones you get in the waiting room before a routine check up with your primary care provider. Volunteering has never been so essential, so meaningful, and yet so difficult. Which is why National Volunteer Week is something to be valued. Our volunteers are essential workers without a paycheck. They are on the frontlines of this pandemic serving all populations and all needs, filling in the gaps so that our communities remain stable and strong.
In the past, volunteering has come with little to no health risks, in fact there are plenty of studies that show the health benefits of volunteering. It’s not that our volunteers aren’t still benefiting from their pay it forward gestures, but it is fair to say that the health risks are much greater. Extra precautions and steps to volunteering take extra time and come with the risk of being exposed to COVID-19, the very thing that is keeping everyone else home and far away from other people. Right now, to be a volunteer means something more than your willingness to miss a day of work and risk getting some white paint on your skin in order to get a fence painted for the local day care center. The folks wearing the invisible “Essential Volunteer” badge are risking their health and safety for the health and safety of their neighbors.
National Volunteer Week is about being grateful for the local people who donate their time, their skills, and their muscle to make improvements in our community. In the past month, volunteers have also donated their safety and security while performing essential jobs and tasks that the essential workforce (who perform other essential jobs) cannot do. Needless to say, without these kind individuals at the helm of these services, our community would be in great need.
It is with the utmost gratitude and appreciation that we say THANK YOU. Thank you to all Addison County volunteers who pick up shovels and rakes and get our fields ready for local sports. Thank you to all of the student volunteers who swap out their pencils for paint brushes and revive buildings and sheds for local organizations. Thank you to all the essential volunteers who have made sure students receive breakfast and lunch every day during the “stay home, stay safe” order. Thank you to the essential volunteers who have donated their time, skills, and materials for making face masks. Thank you to all the volunteers who help our community stay ready, stay clean, stay updated, stay healthy, and stay safe. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we acknowledge all of your hard work and commitment to a place that we call home, Addison County.