May 26th, 2018

Business Beat: Strength of our community is in our volunteers

By Medicine Hat News on April 18, 2018.

April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week, celebrating a 75-year history of volunteer recognition, dating back to the first Canadian proclamation in 1943. The third week in April was proclaimed National Volunteer Week in all communities across the country in 1990 and is now firmly established as the highlight of the year for paying tribute to Canada’s volunteers.

It’s a time set aside for us to recognize and celebrate the power of volunteerism in our community and the enormous impact that volunteering has on individuals, communities, and our country. Volunteer recognition acknowledges accomplishments, reinforces efforts and is a sign of appreciation for the strength that our volunteers give to our respective communities.

While volunteers often do not become involved for the purpose of being recognized, when volunteers feel appreciated and important, they are more likely to feel connected to the program or effort and continue their involvement. However, I think we all know that we shouldn’t wait until an annual week of recognition to acknowledge a volunteer’s efforts. Along the way, we should thank them for the progress they are making and the impact of just showing up to assist in making our organizations and communities an even better place to live and work.

Volunteer week also gives us pause to reflect on the many reasons people choose to volunteer and the many benefits that result both personally and professionally. Volunteering provides the opportunity to feel a part of a team or worthy cause and give back, while allowing individuals to make a difference in the lives of others, helping those less fortunate or perhaps even those who are not strong enough to have a voice of their own. It provides an outlet to spend quality time away from work or a busy lifestyle — whether someone is able to give a little or a lot of time.

Many of the other offsetting benefits of contributing time is gaining confidence and self-esteem, building competence, experience and understanding, as well as diversifying skills and connections. Many people enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and establish long-lasting friendships, while expanding their own social networks. It also builds our community capacity and allows individuals to get to know the local community, while enhancing and strengthening our region as a whole.

We are proud of our many volunteers and know what we do within our community and organizations could not be accomplished without the time and effort of the many individuals involved.

We specifically thank those that have served the Chamber of Commerce over the years. With our 118-year history, we can’t possibly count the number of people who would have been involved in and contributed to where we are today, but we know they have come from various backgrounds with a diversity of knowledge and expertise and have put in time to assist the organization’s growth.

Currently, we have 12 outstanding board directors who lead our organization through the policies, strategies, advocacy and good governance that move us forward. Also contributing to our efforts is a dedicated and diverse business advocacy committee that assists our organization in identifying businesses challenges and opportunities and collectively coming up with effective solutions and recommendations to move forward with. We also are proud of those involved in our community connections committee, who are building their roles and establishing strategies to connect with our community and act as ambassadors for our organization. All of these efforts are in addition to the several other committees and boards our collective group of individuals contributes to.

We recognize that having strong boards and committees are important for the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce to be effective in the work we do and provide us with the ability to have ongoing input to municipal, provincial and federal regulators on a variety of issues, while also connecting with and providing for the needs of our members.

For this reason, we encourage our members to become involved. There are a variety of opportunities, even if you don’t have a lot of time. Currently, we are holding elections to select the members who will join our cause and lead our organization on the board of directors over the next term. Each primary representative of each member organization carries one vote on behalf of the organization they serve, so make sure you or your primary representative (or designated representative) casts their vote in this election. If becoming involved in the Chamber of Commerce is of interest to you, we encourage you to speak with one of our directors about the opportunities, whether through survey participation, a task force, committee involvement or future board, there are opportunities for our members to contribute their time.

As we celebrate Canada’s more than 12 million volunteers, and those particularly within our region, we thank them for the countless hours of time they invest to give back and make a difference in the lives of people around them. We encourage you to recognize those volunteers who contribute to your life and to our community.

Lisa Kowalchuk is the executive director of the Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce.

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