Imagine our towns without volunteers

Their efforts, enthusiasm enrich us all

By The Mercury

We’re delighted to have published in recent days letters from several area residents discussing the contributions that volunteers bring to their organizations.

Lori Bishop, executive director of RSVP, outlined a variety of roles volunteers play in her and other organizations. Fred Goss, director of the Flint Hills Discovery Center, spoke of the enthusiasm with which volunteers add to visitors’ enjoyment. Lyle Butler, president of the Manhattan-Area Chamber of Commerce, said National Volunteer Week, which served as the occasion for these letters, is an occasion to both recognize volunteers and encourage people “to seek imaginative ways to engage in their local communities.”

It’s difficult to imagine this community, or any community, for that matter, prospering without armies of volunteers.

For starters, who would lead the Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops and 4-H clubs? How would those young people learn skills as varied as orienteering and raising rabbits, not to mention honor, integrity and poise? And who would coach the countless youth soccer, softball, baseball, basketball and football teams, teaching not just teamwork and athletic skills but sportsmanship? Big Brothers/Big Sisters could not operate without volunteers.

And as many people — often but not always parents — perform these responsibilities — helping youth is just one area that would not be recognizable without volunteers.

At the other end of the age spectrum, as Ms. Bishop pointed out, volunteers provide meals to the homebound, make sure people without transportation get to their medical appointments and provide myriad other services.

Volunteers also help keep the area’s many service agencies running smoothly. They chip in at the Flint Hills Breadbasket, staff emergency hotlines, answer office phones or do clerical work so professional staff can provide specialized care, welcome visitors or serve as docents at the Sunset Zoo, sort donated clothing or books or household goods, clean up neighborhoods on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hammer nails or run errands for Habitat for Humanity.

Volunteers really do come in all shapes and sizes and perform all manner of services. They’re students, retirees and couples. Some have specific talents; others are unskilled. Some give their time to fill idle hours, others want to improve the community they live in or contribute to a certain cause. And as Ms. Bishop pointed out, they often are motivated by the joy that comes from helping others and making a difference.

And they do make a huge difference. We salute not just the work they do but the energy, enthusiasm and goodwill with which they enrich Manhattan and area communities.

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