Today is National Volunteer Day, a time to shine a light on the important work that over 62 million people across the country do for others. Almost 35% of Vermonters volunteer, according to the National Corporation for Volunteering in America, which puts us sixth on the list of 50 states.
In Vermont, volunteering was born out of necessity generations ago, when people relied on one another to survive in our beautiful, but rural, landscape. Neighbors weren’t strangers back then; they were people you knew and trusted, and you looked out for one another. Volunteering meant shoveling the driveway for the elderly woman next door every time it snowed. It meant bringing supper to the couple with the new baby. It meant doing barn chores every morning for weeks while the farmer nearby healed from a broken leg. Helping your neighbors was something that you did, because you were part of the community, and that’s what helped keep the community strong.
Strengthening our communities is something The Vermont Country Store has done for 70 years. We encourage our storekeepers to be involved in the community, because we know that people who volunteer are healthier and happier. (Studies confirm that’s the truth, but we also see it in our people’s smiling faces!)
Quite often we help local non-profits by lending a hand. Just this month, storekeepers have run a 5K to raise funds for a local elementary school’s field trips, and another group served lunch at a soup kitchen. On Saturday, we’ll be helping a humane society chapter with their spring clean-up.
To get people to try volunteering for the first time, our storekeepers buddy up with a friend to make it easy and fun. We also recognize their individual volunteering by contributing $10 per hour for every hour they volunteer.
There’s no secret to successful volunteering. It just comes down to seeing something that needs doing — and doing it. Around here, we don’t see it as volunteering; it’s just our way of life. I’m glad to say that we’re not so far removed from days gone by, and that our community remains an important part of our lives. We’re teaching that to our children by showing them, not telling them. We hope that you’ll do the same for your community, too.
Contributed by Ann Warrell, Community Action Coordinator for The Vermont Country Store