House Call with Carol Hughes

There’s never a bad time to volunteer

For some of us, summer can be a carefree and enjoyable time as calendars can become less cluttered with appointments and more leisurely days taking their place. But as we enjoy all the festivities that summer has to offer, like festivals, powwows, corn roasts, parades, drag races, or Civic Holiday celebrations, take some time to consider who made it possible. In most instances its likely volunteers who put on, or at least help with the efforts that make these events possible, successful, and lots of fun for all to enjoy.

Volunteers and the work they do allow all kinds of groups and organizations to undertake projects and provide services that might otherwise seem impossible. Perhaps volunteering makes so much sense in Canada because, apart from a few big cities, we’re a collection of smaller communities. It’s easy to see how these kinds of places become tight knit and caring. The efforts from volunteering magnify that and make up for challenges like operating with fewer resources and bring people together when they see what they have built. In that way, volunteers are a non-monetary cornerstone that keeps our communities strong.

For those wanting to help out, there’s no end of ways to volunteer. Some of these options are apparent while others are more informal, like going over to a neighbour’s house to help watch their dog when they’re out or joining with others to help clean a local park or roadside. These options don’t require the same degree of commitment that is needed for volunteers who work with children and must undergo a rigorous background check. Still, these more casual acts are like glue that binds neighbourhoods and communities together and help maintain civility. 

There’s no doubt that the benefits of volunteering are a boon to society, but we should remember it’s not a one-way street. In fact, the act of volunteering can contribute to an individual’s sense of purpose in the world. This might explain why so many people choose to make the commitment. Recent data suggests that almost half of us volunteer in some way or another. Volunteering at the core is giving your time to make someone else’s life easier in some way and it is worth noting that the largest group of volunteers come from adults aged 55 and older, perhaps because they have the most time to help others.

Volunteer Canada tells us that volunteering helps people stay active and connected to their communities and can play a big role in healthy aging, both physically and socially. They point to studies that show reduced stress-related illnesses, higher self-esteem, and less feelings of isolation as some of the benefits available to older Canadians who volunteer.

Whatever the reason that people are moved to volunteer, it is clear that they make our communities and our country better. We are richer for the chance to interact and more compassionate because of it. So, the next time you’re at an event take a moment to thank the volunteers who generously give so much of themselves.