Editorial: Volunteers remain the cement that builds communities

It is once again that time of the year where we take a moment out to thank those incredible men and women (and of course non-binary folks too) who give countless selfless hours of their precious time to help improve life in our communities. From the largest urban centres to the tiniest of rural communities, it is volunteers who help make the world go round, but the impact they have on the very smallest of communities such as those that make up our Manitoulin family quite simply cannot be overstated.

From the parents who volunteer their time on the minor and rep hockey associations, the soccer and baseball leagues, volleyball and horseshoes, cycling and canoeing, racing and walking, figure skating and dance, the sports that enrich the lives of our residents, particularly our children would not be possible without the efforts of countless volunteers.

The incredibly successful three-on-three hockey tournament hosted by the Mindemoya Minor Hockey Association this past weekend is a prime example of those efforts. Parents manned concessions, sold tickets, organized teams, acted as coaches, trainers and managers, and basically ran non-stop for three successive days to help make that tournament a success.

We can easily find examples of the same kind of dedication in each of the sports organizations with which we are blessed.

Each of our hospital auxiliaries, in Little Current and Mindemoya, labour largely unheralded to bring comfort and support to those facing difficult times in their health. From those who trundle about the hallways pushing the tuck carts to the volunteers who stand sentinel at the ticket tables throughout the year to raise funds for their good works—Manitoulin volunteers punch far above their weight class in making our blessed Island community such a great place to live.

Amateur theatre groups such as the Gore Bay Theatre and Burns Wharf Players bring a professional level of effort and talent to the stage, enriching our lives immeasurably, as does the Café in the Woods crew whose efforts bring some of the finest of Canadian original music to our shores each year. We are so very lucky to have these people putting themselves out there on our behalf—they also serve who make cakes, take tickets and operate equipment well behind the scenes and outside of the footlight’s glare.

Add to this roster the many service clubs, the Lions, Rotary and, although they may bristle at the designation (theirs is a fraternal organization that just happens to do good works), the Masons, that give so generously of time and treasure to improve the general weal.

Where would those in crisis be without the many Victim Services volunteers who come out, often in the dead of night when it seems that tragedy so often chooses to strike, offering comfort and support to those whose lives have been turned upside down in an instant—often strangers.

Then there are those who step up ad hoc, not as part of any officially organized group, to offer their assistance to search for a missing child or elder and bring support to their families as they deal with the trauma of uncertainty and worry.

We are an incredibly lucky community and we do not stop near often enough to count those blessings which are our friends and neighbours, the strangers who live down the street or in another community, yet set aside their lives to rally to those in need.

Manitoulin’s efforts reach well beyond our shores and have done so for generations. As refugee crises grip the world, this Island has stepped up to assist, whether it be with the so-called Vietnamese boat people of a generation past, or the more recent efforts of the Manitoulin Refuge Committee who enfolded more of those fleeing war and violence than communities that far outstrip us in numbers and resources.

This is volunteer week and through the pages of this paper a small sampling can be found of the incredible people who offer up their most valuable asset in this busy epoch, their ever shrinking stock of spare time, to try and make ours a better world. This is the week where we do that which we should be doing each and every day of the year—thanking our volunteers.

It seems so very inadequate sometimes, but cannot be said enough. To our volunteers across the Manitoulin—thank you for all you do, thank you and thank you again.