People who do volunteer work are something special, and those who volunteer their time over many years, stretching into decades, even more so.
This was the standout feature of this year's Citizens Awards recipients with their long term commitment across multiple organisations being a common theme.
The motivation for these people is the sense of community, helping and giving, while the rewards are usually little more than a sense of personal satisfaction and an occasional thanks. That is why it is important for us to acknowledge these stand out community members as we do.
Small places like our district are reliant on people helping out and keeping our many organisations ticking along. We don't have large volumes of sponsorship and corporate funding floating around to enable organisations to pay wages or buy services, so the volunteers are essential for survival. The pride and sense of community wellbeing is the currency of payment.
Even some essential services fall into this category, the Stratford and Toko fire brigades are prime examples of this. These people do an amazing job 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, answering all sorts of callouts often in the most distressing of situations.
Actual fire calls represent only about a quarter of the incidents they attend, with medical assists and motor vehicle accidents also significant contributors to their workload. The unseen hours of continuing training and practices make this a really demanding form of volunteering. The Stratford Brigade alone attends around, on average, 25 callouts per month. Where we would we be without them?
A little less exciting but nevertheless equally essential service is that provided by Justices of the Peace. The JP service across the district is well established and includes a regular Thursday session at the library, that is well used by people in the community.
Most people will need to use a JP at some point in time and the role they play is continuously expanding, particularly in the areas of financial documents and personal identification. Despite playing a vital role in the New Zealand legal system and with a significant collective workload, all JPs provide their service at no charge. If they weren't there, who would do their work?
Last week I saw a different group of volunteers, usually seen only every three years or so. These were the individual supporters and groups assisting their preferred candidate seeking election in the upcoming general election.
At the Stratford District Youth Council and Positive Ageing Group Meet the Candidates evening last Wednesday, most candidates had a volunteer supporter group present whose role it was to clap and cheer politely when their person spoke, and heckle and jeer at others if the situation justified it. I admire their commitment to the cause, especially when in reality, success seems near on impossible.
Even the seven candidates deserve a compliment as they give up their own time, voluntarily, to stand for election and provide us with a choice, knowing only one will be elected. This time last year it was the candidates at the local government election going through the same process, so I know from experience it can be quite a harrowing experience.
Of course, the event itself only happened because of two groups of dedicated volunteers - members of the Stratford Positive Ageing Group and the Stratford District Youth Council. Both groups gave their time and effort to ensure voters in the district could hear from their candidates.
As I said earlier, the payment for this type of volunteering is community wellbeing and a sense of belonging. However, we can all do our part in this case to make their efforts even more meaningful, by making sure we all go and vote.