Editorial - What if there was a Fairy Godmother of Volunteering?

Dianne St. Jean

Although the title of this editorial doesn’t seem to be serious, indulge me for a few minutes.

What, or who, seems to be the one who comes through, if even at the last minute, to rescue lost causes or individuals who are losing hope and who cannot pull things off themselves and need someone to intervene?

A fairy godmother of course!

Consider Cinderella – she had the beauty and grace to win the Prince, but did not have the time, resources, or energy to make everything else happen – make a gorgeous dress, round up a dazzling coach (gold, no less - and complete with footsmen and driver) and - oh yes - the special glass slippers.

Bippity-boppity-boo!

Now consider the conversations among Valemount residents over the last few years surrounding events and organizations, the problem seeming to be with volunteerism, or the lack of it.

Name it - almost every group or event has suffered, especially Valemountain Days. But other groups are also calling out for help – the Junior Canadian Rangers, the Historic Society, even the Food Bank, which thankfully was recently saved through community intervention, but had operated for years off the energy of a few individuals, mostly seniors.

Attempt after attempt and appeal after appeal has been made from and within these groups, and most with the same results – new members or volunteers climb on board, full of determination to get the job done - only to either themselves get worn out or quit in exasperation at the lack of support.

That makes me think that perhaps the community could well use a fairy godmother of volunteering – someone who could help all or most of these groups meet their goals without burning out. How?

Consider what some other municipalities and even organizations have embraced – a paid volunteer coordinator. Yes – paid, usually through grants – but the only one paid, and then assigned to help a multiple of groups and organizations.

It appears that much of volunteer burnout (and resentments which cause in-fighting – another cause of group failure) are the result of too few individuals carrying too much of the load; and the reason why other potential volunteers fail to step forward is that they either don’t know what procedures to follow, or they cannot put in long hours because of other commitments.

A Volunteer Coordinator’s job is to take the pressure off others by doing the bulk of the organizing and foot work, whether it’s applying for grants, making phone calls or emails, contacting and signing up volunteers, or booking venues; also perhaps providing input – interviewing or talking to people to see what they would like to see happen in the community, as well as help make it happen.

For example, let’s say an upcoming event requires a lot of volunteers – but most potential volunteers won’t commit because it would mean a commitment to several hours – something they can’t do.

But – let’s say the Volunteer Coordinator contacts three or four people and says, “Hey, I’ve got this one or two hour slot – can you manage that?” I bet we’ll find that, more often than not, the answer would be ‘yes’.

It’s just an idea – but one that I think should be taken seriously. After all, does Valemount have anything more to lose when it comes to volunteerism?

Bippity – boppity- boo!