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Time of year to be thankful for volunteers

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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Last week a group of us Grundy County nonprofits had breakfast together. After I asked everyone for a story about the best gift they ever received as a child, a colleague asked, “What’s the best professional gift you’ve received?”

Hmmmm ...

My first thoughts went to the April flood and November tornado and how blessed I am to be part of a team that is so flexible and caring.

For both events, the question of whether we should take action was simple – yes. The question of procedures and how to do it was a little more complicated, yet still very simple – “do it based on what we know in our hearts to be right and deal with the technicalities as they arise.”

This is so polar opposite of state and federal agencies and organizations – and I’ve worked for a few of them – so I understand and appreciate the difference.

Other professional gifts? Working and collaborating in a rural county. City folks may look at us as having limited resources. Well, we definitely don’t get as much state and federal grant money as we used to. But it is such a blessing to have a core group of caring, dedicated staff to work with, whether it’s at social service agencies, schools, libraries, villages, businesses, the media or churches. We know each other and our services well. The Internet makes it so easy to communicate and I’m constantly amazed and proud at how quickly someone responds when a cry of “help!” goes out.

Donors and volunteers also are great professional gifts for all of us in the nonprofit sector of Grundy County. Donors are generous and we have a great trust factor here – agencies are great at being honest with what they need and how they use donor dollars. As a result, donors and volunteers are more generous with their donations and time – and the residents of Grundy County are better served. Thank you!

And speaking of volunteers, I like to do this math once in a while: I mentally add up how many churches, nonprofits, Scout groups, villages, schools, service clubs, veteran posts, youth sports, booster clubs, etc, that we have in Grundy County then multiply that by the number of board members/volunteers they probably have. My unscientific number: 350 organizations times 10 volunteers equals 3,500 volunteers across Grundy County.

If each of those board members/volunteers put in 10 hours a month, that’s 35,000 volunteer hours a month.

That alone is invaluable. But just for fun, let’s put a dollar figure to it. If “we” had to pay each volunteer $10/hour, that’s $350,000 per month, which is $4,200,000 per year. Gulp – that’s astonishing.

So to answer Jean’s question, the best professional gift I’ve received is to be living and working in Grundy County among so many caring and dedicated peers of all shapes and sizes, including staff, volunteers and donors. I am thankful for each and every one of you – thankful that you choose to give a part of yourself year-round so that Grundy County can remain a great place to live, work, learn, worship, recreate and conduct business.

On behalf of the trustees and staff of the Community Foundation of Grundy County, we hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

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