How did you come up with the “Volunteer Spotlight” idea?
Provincially, FCSS really values volunteer appreciation, encouragement and recruitment. I was looking for ways to increase our program’s involvement in volunteer recognition and its role in community development. I met Misty from the Town of Grimshaw FCSS at the FCSSAA conference in November, and she talked about her Volunteer of the Month program, which showcases a community volunteer each month in the local paper. I thought it would be a great way to highlight all the volunteer work that makes our community so great to be a part of. I have changed the concept a bit so it includes volunteer organizations to spotlight their work and effort for the community as well as individuals.
What would you like those who nominate to say about the person they are nominating?
I would like to know how they describe nominees and what value they see in them as members of our community. I want nominators to talk up nominees because their efforts in the community are valued and therefore should be recognized. Giving us comments and anecdotes are important for conveying the message to the readers that volunteer efforts matter. As a reader, I want to know a bit about that the nominees too.
How much information do you need in order to put the volunteer of the month in the spotlight?
I need to know where nominees volunteer, how long they have been volunteering or what type of volunteer work they do. I would like to know what kind of commitment that takes, so I ask how much time is spent, but that can include how many hours a month, or a year, over the past 25 years, etc. I would like to know how many organizations they have volunteered with. We have a lot of community members who have spent a good part of a lifetime engaged in volunteering. The more information we have, the more we have to spotlight.
Does it matter how many hours a potential nominee spends as a volunteer? What if a volunteer only has a few hours a month but has faithfully spent those hours volunteering?
No, please nominate them. I am looking to highlight for our community all the ways that volunteering takes place, and what it looks like in many different lights. Volunteering is volunteering.
What is the geographical area for nominees? Is it from all over the Central Peace?
Yes, for the Central Peace region.
How does the process work? Do you put the names in a hat and draw a name?
If I get multiple nominations, yes. I will keep all nominations and post one each month. When I get a lot of nominations, we might spotlight one every couple of weeks or more often.
Is this Volunteer Spotlight a way of promoting volunteerism?
Yes. Let’s recognize someone’s efforts and time, and show everyone that volunteering is good for them as well as good for everyone else. Sometimes we don’t recognize how much our neighbors have contributed to our lives if we don’t know what our community needs volunteers for. While I was growing up, my mom volunteered tirelessly with many different organizations, and had us three kids in tow, training us to help out. I know that small rural communities need their residents to “help out” just so we can offer sports programs, and operate community halls, offer fun, social events, keep our local library going, support agricultural societies, etc. Not everyone grows up with that awareness, and it’s important that residents know that we need each other to have a lot to offer in our area.
What is the importance of volunteering?
Beyond supporting your community and giving back, it actually has a lot of personal benefits. Volunteering is one of the best ways to connect yourself with others with similar interests, making new friends, expanding your network, and helping you develop your social skills. Meaningful connection with others is also great for stress reduction. Building a strong support system protects you from depression. Volunteering is giving, and we are hardwired to give to others. The more you give, the happier you feel. Studies also show that volunteers have a lower mortality rate than people who don’t volunteer, and older volunteers tend to walk more, cope better with everyday tasks, are less likely to have high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills.
Do you need to have a specific talent in order to volunteer?
Volunteering doesn’t take talent. It’s the act of giving yourself for others. Well, maybe that is a talent – but, I think, we’re all wired for it.
For those of us who would like to nominate someone but don’t quite know what to say, how do you propose we start?
Just tell us what they volunteer with, and why you think it should be recognized. I think that’s anyone’s real motivation. They think that what this person is doing is really great, and other people should know about it.
Most volunteers I know prefer to stay in the shadows. How do I still make sure they get their well-deserved “moment in the spotlight?”
I like to remind our shy volunteers that showcasing what they have done, and how that helps us, is a way to let people know what needs to be done and why. Someday you aren’t going to be able to be that volunteer, and we’ll still need someone to give in those ways. Show them what to do and why it’s important. Volunteering isn’t usually done for the recognition, but people should know that it’s needed and valued in the bigger picture.
Do you have any final words for people who read this and know of a friend or family member who volunteers?
Please send me a nomination! Let your friends or family members be recognized for their effort. Show us another way that volunteering is important in our community.