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Why I volunteer

Emma Newell from Sunset’s Oxford thrift shop, SOAR co-chair Linda Cloney and Oxford’s economic development officer look over some of the clothing available in Oxford during the 2108 Coats for Cumberland campaign.
Emma Newell from Sunset’s Oxford thrift shop, SOAR co-chair Linda Cloney and Oxford’s economic development officer look over some of the clothing available in Oxford during the 2108 Coats for Cumberland campaign. - Contributed

Community Health

We were out the other day talking to a neighbour, when my wife mentioned something we were going to do with an organization with whom we are involved in doing volunteer work.

“My husband doesn’t understand why anybody wastes their time volunteering. He would never do it,” the neighbour replied.

Having retired to Springhill, a town whose population literally kept one another alive and going in times of extreme adversity through acts of heroism and volunteering, this was not the response I was expecting. In fact, the latest information I could find in Stats Canada stated that over half of Canadians volunteer, through various activities including providing leadership on boards and committees, canvassing for funds, providing advice, counselling or mentoring, visiting seniors, preparing and delivering food, serving as volunteer drivers, advocating for social causes and coaching children and youth.

A paper entitled, The Non-profit sector in Nova Scotia: A Statistical Portrait, was prepared by Imagine Canada for the Government of Nova Scotia. It reveals that the 5,900 charities and non-profits in Nova Scotia are run by 34,400 staff positions supported by the equivalent of 41,000 full-time staff positions in volunteer hours. It further notes that three quarters of the paid staff are in positions with the larger six per cent of charities, and half of the organizations have no paid staff and depend fully on volunteers.

There are reasons Nova Scotians volunteered 78.7 million hours referred to in that study. Most are really simple to understand.

Most have a personal tie to the cause they are supporting. They coach hockey or soccer to support their sons and daughters, collect money for Heart and Stroke in memory of a loved one or walk to support their loved ones fighting breast cancer. Their heart is with those organizations.

Some people are inspired to set a higher example for others to follow, be it their children, family, or friends. They serve food at community kitchens, lead charity drives at work, help plant food in community gardens.

Young people can find experience in volunteering. They learn skills not taught in a classroom, and begin building an impressive resume before they join the work force.

Life lessons don’t end when you are young. For example, volunteering to work with new Canadians allows people to learn about diverse cultures. Terrific side benefit is you end up making friends with people you may not have otherwise even met.

For my wife and I, our reasons for volunteering are the same as many others. We retired to Springhill, but like the last six places we’ve lived, we are from away. As volunteers, we quickly became part of the community and after only one year, we rarely walk into somewhere and don’t see someone we know. Volunteering has forced us to learn new skills or continue to exercise old skills keeping our brains exercised in retirement. As volunteers, we now have the satisfaction of giving back where it is needed; “our turn” to give back to society as it were. We feel good, because working with other volunteers who are like minded and friendly makes you feel good. Volunteering has brought us home.

Some people don’t know why anyone would volunteer. Millions do. I do.

If you want to volunteer, contact your local charities and non-profits and ask what you can do to help. Volunteer Nova Scotia can be contacted through www.Volunteerns.ca .

Better yet, do what I did and contact your local Community Health Board. Become part of the voice that helps keep your family, friends, and community healthy and strong. Meet and grow with the partnership organizations involved.

All three Cumberland County Community Health Boards are currently looking for new members

Bill Schurman & Linda Cloney, SOAR Co-chairs

Terri Ashley, SPAR Chair

Judy Brogan, Pugwash and Area Chair

For more information and about the board, their meetings or to learn how you can become a member please contact Colleen Dowe at 902-397-0376 or Colleen.dowe@nshealth.ca

- James Kurchak is a member of the SOAR Community Health BoardJames Kurchak is a member of the SOAR Community Health Board

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