Volunteers make the difference

We are nearing the end of National Volunteer Week, with its 2009 theme, “Celebrating People in Action.” Volunteerism has become somewhat of the rage nationally, with calls echoing from political halls for volunteer efforts on the parts of citizens in all arenas of action.

The call is hardly necessary in Pagosa Country, where the volunteer has long been part of the foundation of the community and stands as one of its finest aspects.

The number of local groups and organizations that could, and perhaps should, hold volunteer appreciation celebrations is large. There are too many to mention them all. In fact, there are too many to know them all.

A merely cursory inspection of the local scene can show us the positive effect volunteers have on nearly every facet of our lives here.

When one calls to mind the organizations that provide good works with the aid of volunteers, it makes sense that charitable and civic groups come to the fore.

But, think for a moment about government organizations. Any number of publicly-funded organizations use volunteers to good ends. For example, Archuleta County. Much of the work done to begin the county’s ascent from a dire financial predicament took place with the aid of a financial task force — skilled professionals who lent their time and talents to a daunting job, and continue to do so today.

What about the Pagosa Fire Protection District crews? You know, the folks who show up to save your home when fire threatens? Take time to find out what percentage of the firefighter force is volunteer. Do the same when you consider the often-heroic work done by search and rescue personnel.

Volunteers also dominate most of the boards that drive local governments. That’s right, most elected officials in this county are unpaid. They are elected, and they volunteer for duty — often a duty that is far less than glamorous and anything but fun. The boards of the fire district, the hospital district, the library district and school district as well as the town and county planning commissions are all made up of volunteers. The Pagosa Springs Town Council is a board composed of unpaid volunteers.

Then consider the charitable and civic groups, and the incredible number of volunteer residents who form the backbones of the Red Cross, the Loaves and Fishes program, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Operation Helping Hand — all groups that tend to those among us who are in need.

Volunteers from civic groups raise money for scholarships, they clean the areas adjacent to roadways, they ensure the health of the 4-H program, scouting activities, church youth groups and many church activities (internal and outreach), youth sport teams and programs, and numerous outdoor and preservation groups. Volunteers provide invaluable assistance at local schools. Volunteers create a variety of entertainment programs and provide the muscle for numerous arts organizations and activities. The time spent and the funds and materials collected to benefit others by the volunteers in this little community are remarkable.

So, this national Volunteer Week, let’s join in and celebrate people in action. And, perhaps take another step: Become one of those people in action. Nearly all of us can find a bit of time to lend our talents and energies to one of the many volunteer efforts going on around us. With economic trends as they are, with government able to do only so much, there is a steadily mounting need for each of us to lend a hand, to do something for the community. Believe it or not, the activity can be something to enjoy and there is nothing better than doubling the enjoyment of a favorite activity with the knowledge that it does some good for someone else. Karl Isberg