Embrace the Volunteer in You

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In last month’s issue, the Observer reached out to the community looking for people to write. For some time, finding people to get involved and commit time and effort has been an ongoing concern for this organization – as it has for many others in town.

The Observer came to life in the spring of 1999. A significant number of residents were enthused about this grand endeavor of providing news of all the activities going on in Suffield that the city papers failed to notice. They reasoned that an informed town would lead to better public participation and better transparency. It would also promote a public discussion of current issues and inspire input on town projects.

The infectious enthusiasm of this cadre of people of many different talents and backgrounds led to a solid astonishingly successful product. When the first issues arrived at my home, I read them cover to cover – even each individual advertisement. I was astonished! So much was happening, and in the 14 years of living in Suffield, I had been clueless.

For those of you who have not lived in Suffield for a lifetime, try to imagine what it would be like, as I experienced, to not have a local news outlet available. Where else would you find out about all the free movies you can see at the library, or all the great programs they and other organizations offer, or the schedule for the summer concerts on the Green (let’s do that again), or about Suffield on the Green, or the holiday events planned at the churches in town, or the Commission meeting schedule or the background and information on the annual Town budget planning. It goes on and on.

Surprisingly, 20 years later, there are 11 people from the original group still on the staff at the Observer. What keeps these people going? I didn’t ask them, but certainly they see the need for the paper and get satisfaction from doing their “bit.” There also are many wonderful folks who have joined through the years. But people’s lives change, and sometimes they have to move on. A steady flux of new talent is needed.

How do people acquire the motivation to volunteer? As a member of any society, a person enjoys the fruits of public service – good or bad. Volunteered service is a large part of the services provided in (I would say) most communities. If such services are to be good and sufficient, people with the relevant skills need to step up and ensure that they are. Public service is encouraged in our schools, particularly in the upper grades, but it also needs to be a part of every child’s home life. Through example, they can learn that whatever can be contributed to the betterment of community life is a vital, necessary and rewarding part of living. Please… set the example.

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