Editorial – Where have all the old volunteers gone

Published: April 5, 2017


It has been a long weekend. A bunch of us were busy putting on a show and we are exhausted. Hours of unpaid work hours went into the community performance I worked on this weekend and because it’s “volunteer” come Monday morning I was back at my work desk trudging along like nothing really happened.

Behind many of our community organizations and sports organizations there are a series of volunteers that work above and beyond their daily jobs or careers for…well…that is a good question. I have asked, and have been asked, why volunteer? My answer is pretty simple – It passes the time. The winter goes by in a blink and my summer volunteer time brings support to those who need assistance.

My intent is not to turn this column into an encouraging diatribe about why one should put the remote down and get involved in the community. But, if, in the near future a reader does choose to take that path there is someone you need to look out for.

I was discussing an annual community event earlier this month and the picture of this person emerged. Every committee or group has one, or more than one. An “old” volunteer. Those of us who have been around the committee circuit have at one time been this person. I have been this person.

The “old” volunteer is not designated as such based on their years on the planet but by the years they have dedicated to a specific cause or event. They have been around the block more than twice. They have spent hours preparing and delegating and evaluating. They know how many tents are needed and how many tickets to print. They know which sponsors give and which will pass. They have tried all your new ideas, deemed them to be failures, money pits, and/or time wasters.

The last is the most difficult characteristic of all but it’s hard to get away from. Because with longevity comes a historic course of action and assessment that is hard to ignore. It is difficult for the old volunteer to sit back and let you work on something that for years has been a dead-end. “Things are done a certain way because that is how it works.” Words I have uttered as recently as this weekend in fact.

Like I said, I have been the old volunteer.  

I have also been the new volunteer, signing up with enthusiasm and gusto, ready to do things better and take things further. I have to treat the old volunteer with respect and a grain of salt. Because behind the glazed over look is someone who has generously given up their time to provide a service.

However, upon reflection I would say that, this knowledge, know-how and cynicism should be put in check because as much as we have been there, done that – there are truly new ideas out there. Additionally perhaps the walls that the old guard have run into have crumbled just enough for the new idea or process to move forward.

Old or new, we are all around the table for the same purpose. Some of us are just more tired.

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