The sermon had to do with all the hard work that is involved in building the Body of Christ, the Mayor told me. “But Ali, while I was listening, I was struck by just how important volunteers are to the life of a city,” he said. Then he chuckled and said, “I am almost afraid to mention a list in the paper, because I am afraid I might forget someone.” As we discussed various ideas for this column, it became apparent that, while we have often mentioned specific volunteers on a number of occasions, we had never earmarked Mayor Ronnie’s whole column for thanking the volunteers who literally run our city and make our community.
So, if we have overlooked any group or individual, please accept our apologies in advance. He began to roll off a list so quickly that I had to ask him to slow down, and I hope I didn’t miss anyone. The Limestone County Planning Commission, the Zoning Commission, the Library Commission, the Athens Limestone Hospital Board, and the Spirit of Athens and the Beautification Board are all run by volunteers.
“Then you have RSVP,” (the Retired Senior Volunteer Program,) he said. These are folks who refuse to just stay home and take it easy, but are out making our community stronger.
What about when we have a disaster? “How quickly people step up to help,” he said. Churches, the Red Cross, and others get involved, and even disaster based businesses have teams up in Colorado right now helping with the floods.
“We literally can’t exist in Athens without volunteers,” said Mayor Ronnie. Volunteers are a crucial financial commodity, as no community has or will ever have the economic base to be able to pay everyone for everything they do.
The fall has become Festival Season in Athens. Grease Festival, Storytellers’ and Fiddlers’ occur nearly back to back, and are not small events. Not a one of them could come off without volunteers.
But what about things that are perhaps less flashy? “Sunday school teachers are a gift from God to our community,” said Mayor Ronnie. “And so are parent coaches,” he added. “Think of the people who help out at nursing homes, or work with special needs kids or adults, like at the rodeo, or at Birdie Thornton? That takes a calling, to be sure. “Have we bragged on our volunteers enough?” he asked me. “No,” I answered, “but this is a start.”
We talked about the fact that two seemingly conflicting states exist in our city, i.e. we have both an abundance of volunteers and volunteerism, and we also have a huge need for more volunteers.
Why volunteer? There are a number of reasons, but one of them is that it is good for you, and it feels good. When you volunteer, your brain’s “feel good” chemicals kick into high gear, and your sense of worth is strengthened. “Athens, thank you!” he said again. “And oh, if you see something you don’t like, like trash on the ground, go ahead and pick it up,” he said, with the characteristic twinkle in his eye. And then we prayed.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner