Just think about it — where would Whistler be without its merry band of volunteers? They number in the hundreds but can swell to the thousands during epic events like the Olympic Winter Games of 2010. They're the ones behind the books and programs at the local library; they're busy organizing food donations at the food bank; they're sharing a laugh with a down-and-out kid who longs for some mentorship. Volunteers sit on committees and use their creativity to improve our towns and move boldly towards the future, and they often do all this quietly in the background of everyday life.
But their efforts do not go unnoticed, particularly by the organizations that thrive and grow as a result.
Take Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), for example, which works with community partners to provide services that promote social sustainability in Whistler.
Claire Mozes, outreach program manager for WCSS, is eager to applaud its volunteers.
"WCSS programs and services would not be able to run without volunteer commitment so, to our non-profit, volunteers are invaluable," she writes in an email. As a case in point, she shares that last year approximately 1,200 hours of volunteer time were recorded for the food bank.
Volunteers bring both energy and enthusiasm to the task of helping the community, she adds.
Maureen Douglas agrees.
Working as director of community relations for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (VANOC) for eight years, Douglas believes the Olympic volunteer experience changed the town dramatically — for the better.
"I think it created a huge awareness of the value of volunteering for a lot of the people who did volunteer," she points out, "and I think it really instilled in them just what a remarkable experience it can be."
Recruiting Olympic volunteers was one of the most significant harnessing of volunteer efforts that ever transpired on the west coast, where a staggering 10,000 volunteers were required in the Sea to Sky corridor alone.
Yet, says Douglas, there was an astounding turn out, with people going above and beyond and even recruiting from within their own families.
"Families volunteered together and it became a part of the culture and history of their family," she remarks.
That legacy is living on with the Ironman Canada event to be held in Whistler on August 25.
The 3,000 volunteers needed, is the greatest number required since the Games, notes Douglas, and the response has been swift.
It's been remarkable how quickly the 80 volunteer captain positions were scooped up, and the turnout for the initial volunteer meetings was also strong, she says.
"I think people see an event like the Ironman and right away equate the opportunity to volunteer with the Olympic experience of meeting other volunteers from all over and from home, so you're making long-term friends that live right here that are passionate about hosting and seeing events do well here," explains Douglas. "Their excitement and understanding of what might be required of them is one of the great legacies of the Olympics. People have a better understanding of how much fun you can have even if the days are long and the work might be hard."