Thank you to our volunteers

When I got the invitation to speak to a group of lovely ladies this past Family Day, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I was told I would be the only male…I didn't read the fine print that most of the ladies were in their eighties.

It was the local IODE (Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire) Founder's Day luncheon. You may recognize the name locally as they run a Thrift Shop in Downtown Penticton at 464 Main Street. Like many of our local service clubs, IODE donates thousands of dollars back into our community. I was impressed with their organization and the energy in the room.

My concern is we have so many service and community groups that depend on volunteers, but none seem to have a succession plan. They all acknowledge that their membership continues to get older, and outreach to a younger generation never seems to gain traction. Therein lies the problem, which is not unique to just Penticton: the bulk of the younger generation has not grown up with the knowledge or experience of volunteerism. It seems everyone is pressed for time, and time is not a luxury we can give away easily.

Many organizations have initiated some form of paid (salary or honorarium) reimbursement for administrative and teaching requirements. It can ease the burden on volunteers or non-profit boards, but the end of the day, most non-profit organizations can't afford to pay for administrative help without jeopardizing their true mandate of giving back to the community. With a good administrator, the group could probably fundraise more, apply for grants or execute better programming to their membership. On the other hand, money spent on staff is money not going to programming or projects.

Penticton prides itself on our friendly and robust volunteer base that adds to the charm of our community and makes us unique. How strong will our volunteer and service groups be in 5-10 years? These are the questions we need to start asking now and create a plan to recruit younger volunteers. Perhaps we need a focus group with youth and the under-40 crowd to understand what their needs are and how an existing service club can adapt to include the new generation. Everyone has a passion, and I encourage the community to either pursue their passions or give back to help someone else find theirs.

One of the positive benefits of being on Council is that we get exposed to different groups, clubs, events, people and places that make Penticton so vibrant and truly a place to stay forever. I am proud of who we have in our community organizing sports, arts, culture and social needs. I want to thank those who continually give back to this community or to their passion to make it better for the future of Penticton.