In a small town, it takes a village of volunteers

By Barb Condren, President, Bourbon Area Community Center
    How do you thank all the people who show up when a project needs to be done and, sometimes, people you don’t even know show up to do it and it just gets done?

    What do you say to people who notice things that need to be done, that you weren’t even aware of, and suddenly it’s done?
    There are so many of those kinds of people around, and they probably don’t get the recognition they deserve. And, it’s hard to try to make a list, by name, of everyone because, no doubt, there would be someone very deserving who doesn’t show up on the list, but you know who you are, and we know who you are.
    It takes a village, just to keep one place, the Bourbon Community Center, for example, up and running and viable in the community, and to be sure that we can provide a place for a Library to be and a place for our senior citizens to meet for lunch and enjoy each other’s friendship. It takes a group of dedicated board members for the Center and for the Library.
    The Library has a team of volunteer board members, who are working hard, along with the individual staff members of each branch to bring new and interesting programs for children and adults, and they spend hours of personal time in meetings and activities preparing for and making sure that the Library is delivering quality services every day.
    And that doesn’t even begin to mention all the volunteers who help manage and run the Senior Citizen Lunch Program through the CMAAA (now known as “Aging Best”). It is a state-sponsored program, but it’s very dependent on volunteers in each of the local areas where the program is delivered. All of the volunteers in Cuba, and those that show up every day at the Bourbon Center and other lunch programs, make sure that the food they deliver is safe, plentiful, and delicious and delivered with a smile, and it’s no small task by any means. There are regulations to follow, and standards to meet for the state and for the program. They are setting up, cooking, serving, cleaning up and delivering meals on wheels every day.
    All over the area, volunteers staff thrift shops, missions, and food pantries, serving the needy and hungry of our small communities. The Bourbon “Thrift Shop” and Food Pantry is one of the most successful businesses in Bourbon, in terms of their mission, that you may not even be aware of, and it’s managed and operated completely by a volunteer board and a staff of dedicated volunteers who spend hours sorting through things that are dropped off daily, getting them ready for re-sale. They unload truckloads of food, sorting and shelving, giving it all away to its patrons. It’s a little hidden treasure of hard-working people, and the business turns most of its money into donations to help other organizations and individuals in the community.
    The Fall Festival, held in and around the Bourbon Community Center, every September, brings hundreds of people into town for a parade, games, food and fun, and could not be held without the help of so many community volunteers. You see many of the same faces, year after year, and there always seems to be new volunteers who want to continue the Festival and make it better. No one is being paid to bring in food or prepare it, or operate games and activities. And the Festival, brought to you by the Bourbon Boosters and by the Economic Development Committee, is an all-volunteer group of people, putting in hours of planning and organizing to make it happen. All they ask is that we all show up and have a good time.
    Any article about volunteers has to include the very active Board of CASA and the small army of Court Appointed Special Advocates who work with foster children. This program, was organized in 2005 in the Crawford County area and now serves children in several surrounding counties out of its office in Cuba. It operates with some financial support from the state, but primarily is supported by donations, fundraising, and grant funding. The volunteers work tirelessly and generously with children, speaking up for them in court, while the children’s Division of Family Services, assists their families toward reunification or, in some cases, in finding permanent new homes for the children.
    It’s true that volunteering may not be for everyone, and it’s not always convenient at particular times in our lives. And then, sometimes we want to help but we don’t really think that we have anything to offer, or know where to start.
    There are volunteers working in every small town trying to make their town a better place to live. If you want to get involved in your community, all you have to do is reach out, join groups, or attend events.
    Just look around for those people who seem to be everywhere, and are always doing something, and ask how you can help. There are volunteers who work in our schools, in the thrift shops, and with the Red Cross. We have volunteer firefighters, there are volunteers who work with foster children, you can help read books to children in the library, and there are probably hundreds of things you could do to help with projects around your small town.
    Volunteers are those special people who give of themselves because they enjoy helping others and want to see their community thrive. So, the next time you see someone working hard in a volunteer job, take a minute to thank them for the dedication and time they spend on behalf of others.
    And, here is a special thanks to all of the volunteer Board Members of the Bourbon Area Community Center. It takes the knowledge and experience of each of them to come together and make the Center work. And, to all of you who take time from your busy schedules, show up and ask how they can help, and then follow through, we appreciate you.