Letters: Volunteers level the playing field

In response to February 19 editorial on volunteerism

I wish to provide feedback on your editorial of February 19, 2014, “What is a volunteer worth?”

While I believe I understand the intent of your article, I feel there are a few points that need to be reviewed.

You ask: “Is one person’s time more valuable than another’s?”  Look through out history, in every culture and the answer will unfortunately show itself to be ‘yes’.  Pay inequality spans the gamut, and yet there are high salaried people who volunteer as well as people in need.  Consider that it may be through volunteering that the playing field is leveled somewhat, and people are valued for what they do, not what they earn.

You state: “Volunteerism is a multi-billion dollar industry with not a penny to show for it.”  Really?  What about the saved lives, the happy homes?  The Sooke Community Hall and all our ball fields? What about Ayre Manor? and EMCS Community Theatre? The Child, Youth & Family Centre? to name a few.  Then there are social enterprise non-profits that earn at least some of their own income such as Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul, Sooke Family Resource Society and Edward Milne Community School.Sometimes we need to look a little further to see those things, some we can not touch, but they are there.

Re: “Governments, organizations, charities and clubs depend on getting things done at no cost. They depend on the good will of people and rely often on sentiment, sympathy and guilt.”  We the people rely on these things, though hopefully without the guilt. We also rely on the government to manage distribution of our taxes to the best advantage.  Believe me, there is a cost to the work done by volunteers and non-profit organizations, it is just generally done for less, without the profit margin. Do you have any idea what it costs to maintain the ball fields so our kids can play? To keep the doors open so people in need can drop in for a warm up of coffee?  To fill those food boxes for the less fortunate?   There are many reasons why people volunteer.

Your statements: “Being a volunteer is about making things happen, being a part of the whole rather than the individual.”  “It isn’t a “job” in the classic sense of the word, but it is definitely work.” This gets closer to the heart of the matter, and I think are at the heart of why you wrote this editorial.

We can ‘should’ on people all we want though very little volunteering is truly altruistic.  We do, in fact, need to get something back, whether it be that warm feeling; camaraderie of being with like minded people; chances to learn, grow and expand; or the opportunity to give back.

I agree that giving money is not the best approach to volunteer appreciation.  At the new Volunteer Centre office we are working to support the many non-profit groups in our region find ways to keep up-to-date with the changing dynamics of volunteerism; to recruit and retain people who are giving with passion, feeling valued and appreciated; and to explore opportunities to share and collaborate even more.

To learn more about stop by the office any Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, and/or swing by the Third Annual Volunteer/Non-Profit Fair, Saturday, April 12, 12 – 3 p.m.   That is after you have attended SEAPARC’s annual community garage sale and Family Art events 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  Bring the family, have fun!

 

Marlene Barry, Chair

Sooke Region Volunteer Centre,

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