Reviving the volunteer spirit in the community is vital to our future

“The day of the volunteer is over.”

That statement came out of last week’s Day County Commissioners meeting in reference to the difficulty the ambulance service is having in recruiting new volunteers to sustain the mobile health unit which is so critical to our area. Out of that meeting also came the news that there are only seven EMT personnel on the ambulance service roster at this time.

Last July’s census estimates put the Day County population at 5,479. Knowing that, one way to look at things is, if there are just seven persons capable of giving life-saving support in emergency situations, each one of those persons is responsible for 782.7 residents. That’s not including the hundreds and thousands of out-of-area travelers who pass along our roadways every day.

That’s a lot of responsibility to place on the shoulders of just a few people.

And the ambulance service isn’t the only place hurting for volunteers. Fire departments are another emergency-related field which also often finds themselves short on manpower.

It’s not hard to see the shift that has happened in our society’s attitude towards the act of volunteering. Programs and organizations are struggling more and more as their faithful and reliable volunteer pool dries up.

Some say Covid is to blame. I say that’s not the case but the pandemic certainly compounded the issue. For the most part, our culture’s volunteers are members of an older generation than mine. Many decided not to take the risk of exposing themselves to a virus in 2020 and stepped down from their posts, which many may have held for decades.

The problem is, there was no one ready to step into their shoes.

Growing up, I listened to Barney. That “Clean Up” song still gets stuck in my head once in a while and comes to mind when I think about this topic. “Clean up, clean up! Everybody everywhere! Clean up, clean up! Everybody do their share.” The concept and message is that the load will be lighter if everyone does a little bit to help out. It’s the same for volunteering. Be it serving at the food pantry or even just picking up a piece of trash off the street – every little thing helps make our community better.

A cultural shift seems to have occurred somewhere along the generational lines and I’m not sure what can be done to bring more self-awareness to the issue. No longer are we a society focused on the good of others but now we are more self-focused than anything.

Without volunteers, everything grinds to a halt. From entertainment level endeavors to life-saving ones, we have to have volunteers.

As an example, I often hear complaints from folks about there being nothing to do in a small town. Yet, whenever there is something planned, they refuse to show up and check it out. If you think an event needs to happen here, then you need to organize it. Likewise, if something is going on, you need to attend the event. It takes everyone stepping up to make this work. It takes everyone pulling together to make our world a better place, even in the small matters.

That’s why I say kudos to the newest members of the ambulance crew and to those going through EMT training classes now. I salute each of you because of the sacrifices you are willing to make to ensure everyone has a better tomorrow ahead of them. You all rock. Thank you for stepping up when no one else has.


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