Thank goodness for volunteers, but we need more
June 14, 2019


Finding volunteers for all the programs, events and services we need to keep a community functioning has never been easy, yet there are some disturbing incidents over the past few years in Lake Placid that have caused some concern.

Even though we have hundreds of volunteers helping with Lake Placid's largest sporting events every year - the Lake Placid Marathon and Half, Ironman Lake Placid, races hosted by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, etc. - there's always a core group of residents who take on the bulk of volunteer work in the Olympic Region's communities. You'll find some of the same names from one organization to another.

A good example is this year's Lake Placid North Elba Distinguished Adult Volunteer of the Year, Bob Hanna, who is an active volunteer on the Lake Placid-North Elba Tree Board, Rotary Club of Lake Placid and Ironman Lake Placid.

Yet we continue to see a trend of fewer volunteers when it comes to community-based organizations that do a lot of good. That trend has already forced the Kiwanis Club of Lake Placid to disband in 2017, and it has almost caused the Lake Placid Elementary School FRIENDS committee to disband twice in the past few years.

Why is this happening?

Are there fewer people living here? Not really. Are people busier than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago? That's debatable. We'd like to say it's because of cellphones and social media, but that's an easy target. Do people really have their noses stuck in their phones so much that they don't have time to volunteer? That's debatable.

Thank goodness for programs that teach our youth about the benefits of community service. The Lake Placid High School, for example, requires students to volunteer for at least 40 hours before they can graduate. This year's Lake Placid North Elba Distinguished Teen Volunteer of the Year, LPHS senior Maeve Daby, has actually accumulated more than 400 hours of community service. That's impressive, and we like to think she's an inspiration to her fellow students. She's certainly an inspiration to us.

Does Daby volunteer so much because she's less busy than the rest of her peers? Certainly not. She's a high honors student who plays three sports. Yet she finds time for volunteering.

"Volunteering in this community is something that I truly enjoy and hope to continue throughout my young adult life," Daby said after receiving her Volunteer of the Year award June 2 at Lake Placid Community Day. "I hope that my community service is an inspiration for others who will selflessly serve their community as I do."

We need more Maeve Dabys. We need more Bob Hannas. We need more Kristy Mihills.

Mihill joined the LPES FRIENDS committee three years ago after the group threatened to disband because of the lack of volunteers. Now she's the co-president. Is it because she has more time on her hands than other parents? Not even close. She works a full-time job and has two girls at the LPES, one in kindergarten and one in fourth grade.

"There was a big plea for help," Mihill said, recalling the time she joined LPES FRIENDS. "I had considered coming to the meetings, and I just put it off and put it off and put it off. And I was like, 'I can do this. I want to be there for the students. I want to be there for my own kids.'"

Mihill sees the benefits of volunteering.

"I love being in the school, being around the kids, being involved in the students' lives as well as my own kids," she said. "Being on the committee has helped me make new mom friends."

The solution to getting more volunteers?

Step up. People will always be busy, but even setting aside an hour a week for community service is better than nothing. It will help keep our civic groups together for the benefit of the community.

Communicate more. We sincerely believe that civic groups that rely on volunteers need to communicate more regularly with the community, not just on social media but through other means, such as the local newspapers and radio stations.

Keep volunteers in the limelight. We applaud the volunteers who choose the Lake Placid North Elba Distinguished Volunteers of the Year and organize the Lake Placid Community Day and Picnic, which highlights local groups. These two programs are important to keeping the conversation going about the importance of volunteering.

Ask for help. Please, choose a cause, and sign up to volunteer today.


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