As the call for volunteers once again rings out across the Kivalliq to signal the imminent arrival of the region’s spring festivals and the ever-popular fishing derbies, you can’t help but hope our track record of having a strong volunteer base that constantly steps-up when needed continues to hold.
The internationally-recognized cross-country race once attracted skiers from across the globe and was set to enter its 51st year in Inuvik.
That’s a lot of success over a long period of time in a community for such a storied event to face extinction over an ever-shrinking group of people people willing to be volunteers or leaders in a community.
And, arguably, nowhere in this great nation of ours is it more important to the overall mood and good health of a community than here in the North.
I know the majority of the continual volunteers in Rankin Inlet and I respect them and the invaluable contributions they make to their community on an on-going basis.
Two things that have been driving the steady decline in volunteerism across small-town and big-town Canada are the shift in societal values that sees families and individuals guarding their downtime or ‘me time’ with a vengeance rarely, if ever, seen before.
They have, in many ways, produced the perfect storm against a number of time-honoured extracurricular activities that often form the base, or spirit, of a community.
And that base can go from being the strength of a community to its ultimate weakness in what seems like record time these days.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the festivals and derbies of our region, they often help run programs from pre-natal to sewing, while coaching, leading our cadet and Girl Guides and helping out at fundraisers that have become too many to count in the Kivalliq.
It would be hard to imagine life being the same in any Kivalliq community that suddenly lost its volunteer base and its winters would become darker and a whole lot colder.
I’ve called Rankin Inlet home going on 21 years now and I would be hard pressed to explain why we’ve been blessed with such a strong foundation of volunteers for the vast majority of that time.
People often use familiar terms such as strong community spirit to explain it, but though there can be no denying you get a strong sense of community spirit in Rankin, the volunteer base seems to stretch beyond that.
Some of the events still seem to be a social activity for many of our Rankin volunteers and you often see members of the same family being community volunteers generation after generation.
Today’s activities may be a far cry from the barn-raising events across the Prairies in days long since past, but they are every bit as important, if not more so, to the moral fabric of a community and the sense of togetherness that sees people pull together more than at any other time in history.
That sense of a social activity among many of the volunteers, as well as seeing numerous members of the same families constantly volunteering, give hope as to the continuing strength of our volunteer base.
It’s fun to volunteer is a message that continues to hold its own in the war against the protection of downtime in our region, and volunteerism continues to be a part of the community legacy being forged in the Kivalliq by a number of families.
Hopefully, the message will continue to be heard by more young folk and our volunteer base will remain strong for the foreseeable future.
You don’t often miss what you have until it’s gone. Hopefully, that’s one sentiment that will never apply to the volunteers of our region.
It is truly one of our region’s greatest strengths.