April is National Volunteer Month. Volunteers have always been critical to the success of our communities, but the events of the past year have really brought that into focus. Our ability to be optimistic about 2021 is, in part, significantly impacted by the work of our volunteer force. Since last March, volunteers have stepped into the gap to ensure that our communities are safe and able to navigate the new normal that Covid has brought.
One group of essential workers is our healthcare volunteers. Currently the new Covid vaccines are being administered and volunteers have played an important role. Not only have volunteers helped to inoculate patients, but a brave group actually made it possible for the vaccines to exist. During the development phase, thousands of volunteers put their own personal safety at risk by agreeing to serve in the clinical trials and be monitored to test the efficacy of the vaccines. Also, it seems like ages ago, but last Spring there were thousands of volunteers helping to locate and manufacture PPE for hospital workers, when the shortage was most dire. Sewing machines all across the United States were being used to produce some of the most creative and fashionable masks the world has ever seen.
Another group of volunteers who have made a difference include those who serve on governance boards for nonprofit organizations. So many nonprofits had to quickly develop plans to operate during a very fluid and challenging situation. Some organizations saw huge increases in the number of people needing to access their services, as millions of people lost their jobs seemingly overnight. Other organizations had to close their doors temporarily and then figure out how and when to reopen. Many community organizations are still closed today, and unfortunately there have been permanent closures of nonprofits from across the spectrum, from the arts to zoos. Governing boards have had the thankless job of making decisions that are very difficult, especially since there is still so much that is unclear about the days and weeks that lie ahead.
Lastly, fundraising volunteers have truly been heroes over the past year. Fundraising volunteers have always been important, but during this pandemic they have been invaluable. Many nonprofits are not able to employ as many fundraising staff as they would like. Volunteers truly serve as an extension of the labor force and allow organizations to reach more people and increase their impact.
Volunteers are an important part of the fabric of society all year long, not just in April. Typically, they are very humble and too busy working to seek out kudos, but they do deserve our gratitude. So, when you see a volunteer, be sure to thank them for their service – they are truly making a difference.
(Published in the Greeley Tribune, Estes Park Trail-Gazette, and Estes Park News)