Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.
— Marjorie Moore
The first time I saw this quote, my instant reaction was, "oh yeah!" Look around ... Why is Gothenburg used as an example for many across the state, even the country? (i.e. All-America City) Because there are a whole host of residents willing to volunteer, willing to sacrifice their personal time to ensure the quality of life in Gothenburg sets the trend for others.
In the Chamber of Commerce world, we work with volunteers every day. Folks who serve on the board of directors give their time. Committee members give their time. People freely volunteer to help set up events, work during events and we never have to wonder if there will be enough people to clean up. Obviously, the Chamber is not unique in this.
Look at our theatre, our senior center, even our school system. We wouldn't have nearly the programs, events, rock-solid civic institutions that we enjoy in Gothenburg without the people here who are willing to give and give and give. Basically, we've built a culture, an expectation of volunteerism.
Of course there are those who seem to get called upon over and over. They are recognized for their generosity of time and they've proven they can get things done. There are others who are a bit more conservative taking on commitments, but still highly trustworthy.
Each of us has a responsibility to preserve the spirit of volunteering. The Gothenburg school system has made a conscious effort to teach our kids the value of doing something for others with no expectation of getting anything in return. But let's not leave this mission entirely to our educators. Ask your neighbor to come along when you're volunteering at church. Talk to the new guy at work about joining your favorite civic group. Get involved and help the rookies in town jump in feet first as well.
You can't always control your taxes, the people who move into your neighborhood or where you get to park at the grocery store, but you can control where you spend your spare time. You might as well make your community a better place.