Volunteerism is a firm thread in the social fabric of Powell River.
In the early days of settlement here, pioneers were inspired by a need to get things done. Progress was a privilege that benefited the community as a whole, so communities pitched in to create opportunity and commerce and look after those who needed help. It is an entrenched and fundamental way of life.
Volunteer crews drive the trucks for many fire departments throughout Powell River Regional District. There are charitable agencies caring for the sick and aging and there are thrift stores staffed by a volunteer force numbering in the 100s.
At the close of World War II, in 1945, Kay Andrews became the first president of the newly formed Powell River Hospital Auxiliary. Patient comfort has always been an important mandate for what is now called Powell River Health-Care Auxiliary.
More than 400 years of individual altruism has, over time, become a big part of what it means to be Canadian.
Through the 1600s, Canada was at the forefront of social policy around supporting the underprivileged and poverty-stricken members of settlement era society. A sovereign council arranged a committee to aid the poor and help to build infrastructure and opportunity.
In 1899, volunteers, believing that education was a fundamental right of all Canadians, formed the Frontier College in Toronto. Tutors travelled to remote logging operations, small frontier towns and railway and mining camps to bring education to a largely isolated work force.
By 1942 the Women’s Volunteer Service (WVS) organized the first national volunteer week to bring awareness to women volunteers contributing to the Canadian war effort during WWII. But by the 1990s, the Canadian government started pulling back its support for social service agencies and down-loading much of the burden to the non-profit sector. This move and a lack of policy and funding support from government resulted in increasing difficulties faced by volunteer organizers, including unfilled volunteer positions, high volunteer turnover; and goods, support and services remaining undelivered to populations in need.
Volunteer organizations have time and again risen to challenge the shortfalls created by lack of government social and economic supports in Canada. To quote Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) “Unless someone cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s just not.”
April 6 to 12 is National Volunteer Week.