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How to volunteer and still have (lots of) fun in the process

Nov. 8 is “Volunteer Opportunity Day” in Ladysmith.


Volunteering. The word sends some of us ducking and weaving as we look for cover. I’m kinda like that myself but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

The bad experiences are caused by people’s expectations of themselves and the organizations that they are giving their time to. There is the “high energy retiree” who is worried about filling time and over extend themselves…attaches themselves to lots of worthwhile causes. Then comes travel, grandchildren, health problems and other unforeseen circumstances and suddenly they have too much to do. How about the domineering personality who swoops into a position and is determined to have things done his/her way? This causes friction and discontent. There are outfits that refuse to change the way they have always done things and therefore drive people away in frustration. I could go on and on and I am sure you can come up with some examples as well.

Let’s examine a typical volunteer outfit. It may have a few paid coordinators. It will have some very dedicated, bossy long term people. It will have financial difficulties. It may be quite disorganized. It will bleed you dry and leave you a whimpering husk of your former self…if you let it.

There are a few rules…let’s call them guide lines…to retaining your sanity and actually enjoying your volunteer gig. First, and this is the most important one, you must have or get a sense of humour.

You are going to have to deal with the aforementioned bossy people, others that don’t do their tasks as you think they should and all kinds of personalities that can be abrasive. Think of your situation as a comic strip or a sitcom and enjoy the characters while not forgetting that you are one of them. A thick skin can also come in handy as some times the comic strip characters lose their charm.

The second guide line is to pick a position that you want to do. Don’t stick up your hand because the job is critical, necessary or the organization will wither into oblivion if you don’t. It won’t.

Volunteering should be fun and fulfilling. If your committee is in need of a recording secretary and your stomach churns at the prospect, shuffle papers, avoid eye contact, pretend to be writing something, drop your pen and hide under the table but do not volunteer for this. Learn how to say

“No”. If you have worked at a desk with numbers your entire career, don’t take the treasurer’s position unless you would love it. Maybe you would like to pound nails. If you loved your work and can contribute in that way, good.

Start small. This way you can observe the inner workings of the organization and scope out areas that would be satisfying to work in or perhaps find that you want to disappear. Remember that a board position is not to be taken lightly. You are expected to work.

I’m not trying to put you off; quite the opposite. I want you to have a good time. It can be tremendously satisfying with warm and fuzzy feelings. Follow the few suggestions above to avoid burn out and disappointment.

There are almost unlimited opportunities for volunteering in our community. I stopped by the Chamber of Commerce and was given a list of about 140 organizations that use volunteers and scanning it, I see some are missing.

Ladysmith Maritime Society is hosting a Volunteer Opportunity Day on Friday, Nov. 8 from 1 pm to 6 pm. All persons in the community are welcome to come to the Welcome Centre on the docks and learn about all the various areas…working with the museum, boat restoration shop, Festival, tour boat, Saturday work party, dock beautification to name some. You do not need to own a boat to be a member and there are benefits. There is a row boat that members can use any time and it is the intention to make other types of craft available.

Volunteering can be good...volunteers at Ladysmith Maritime Society. Photo courtesy of Shirley Blackstaff

Volunteering can be good…volunteers at Ladysmith Maritime Society. Photo courtesy of Shirley Blackstaff

An example LMS volunteer position would be Coordinator for the Ambassador Program. Our restored tug Saravan attends classic and wooden boat shows. The Coordinator would make application to the shows, arrange delivery crews and hotel accommodation. You could also be trained to operate Saravan and take part in the shows.

Hosts for the Welcome Centre are also needed. Hosts would greet guests from visiting boats and from the shore and inform them of marina facilities and events and services in town. The LMS museums are also in need of hosts.

Ladysmith Maritime Society is a non profit society that is committed to making our marina a welcoming attraction to our harbour and town. The public is always welcome to come and enjoy the facilities.

The Mount Brenton Power and Sail Squadron, the Royal Canadian Marine SAR, the Dragon Boat Organization and the Ladysmith & District Historical Society Museum representatives will be there as well to describe their organizations opportunities. This will be a no pressure informal gathering. Have a coffee and chat to Ladysmith Maritime Society members. Stroll our docks. That is a fun thing to do on any day.





About the author: Rob Pinkerton

Rob Pinkerton