A Winters Express opinion column
One of the things that I love about living in Winters is the fun things that our community puts on. I always tell people that Winters loves to throw a good party and support each other and a good cause. From annual festivals and fundraisers to raising money to support a resident in need, Winters turns up the charm and an uplifting atmosphere.
The thing about those events is that they come to fruition from the work of community volunteers. And when volunteers get burned out or are simply unable to continue putting effort into events? Those events hit bumps in the road or even disappear. This is not a new phenomenon brought on by the pandemic, although the pandemic surely did not help matters any.
With the change of the guard among local organizations and nonprofits, some of the “tradition” has gone haywire. With new folks moving in, and older residents either moving out or passing away — the institutional knowledge and details get forgotten.
Do not misunderstand me: new folks moving in are not the problem.
The problem comes when documentation isn’t created to notate procedures and checklists of how to do things. Challenges arise when groups do not create a contingency plan or put strategic effort into bringing on new members and training them before previous members depart. And, traditions may fade away when there is no longer a buy-in to host an event, and folks don’t volunteer to help put things on.
When there are not enough volunteers, over time the tasks and responsibilities pile up high and even higher up on the few folks left that it gets hard to remember everything there is to pass on to the newer folks, or the high workload is far too overwhelming and the newer volunteers don’t stick around long enough to take the torch. On the flip side, trying to do too many new things, too fast, without careful planning steps, can also backfire in burnout and a lack of buy-in.
I have experienced all of that, and more, amongst different boards and organizations with which I’ve volunteered.
I had the opportunity to attend a volunteer workshop when I was on the Winters Friends of the Library board. One thing that stuck out to me was the notion that there are different levels of volunteering that people can choose to engage in.
There are leaders who will step up and sit on the board and take on organizational and administrative tasks. There are smaller-picture leaders who will offer to take on a committee or organize and execute a main task. There are worker bees who will show up ready and willing to do what you need them to do. And, there are tasks you can ask folks to help fulfill like bringing those cupcakes, donating supplies or even helping to stuff envelopes with thank you cards.
From my experience, finding those leaders who are willing to help take on some of the “bigger” roles has been harder to fulfill nowadays. Being the President or Treasurer is indeed a scary commitment, but it’s needed in order for the organizations to continue running. Some nonprofits have found a co-Presidency is the way to go to fill in Board seats.
And yet, those boards still need people to attend and contribute to the conversation, planning and even brainstorming so they can make a well-thought decision. I’ve been to those community meetings hosted by everyone from the City to local nonprofits and either the same five people attend or it’s just board members who are there.
I volunteer to give back to the town that helped raise me and provides me with opportunities. I volunteer to ensure that local youth and residents continue to have those same opportunities. I volunteer because I have continued to gain new experiences and skills and it fulfills my desire to continue learning new things and meeting new people. I volunteer because it gives me a chance to use the things I have learned to, hopefully, uplift and contribute.
My ask to each and every one of you is to think about what kind of volunteer you have time to be. What skills, knowledge or experience can you offer? Find the organizations, events, or causes that mean the most to you or that ignite your soul and reach out to them with what exactly it is you have to offer.
Every event, nonprofit-provided service, and effort needs volunteers of all kinds to make it successful. But they need more community members to step up and reach out in some capacity. And if right now you are just trying to stay above water, take the time to fill your cup and then circle back once you’re in a better place to provide service to your community.
It truly takes a community cooperating together at different levels to make things happen, especially in Winters.