Volunteers play a vital role within Alberta, identifying and filling gaps left by the public
and private sectors. They give freely of their time and talents in order to improve the lives
of others and to play their part in the development of supportive, caring communities. The time
and energy volunteers donate is one of the purest forms of philanthropy: a commitment to the
public good with nothing asked in return.
Volunteering is not without its rewards, however. Many of them are intrinsic to the act of
volunteering itself, and include such things as a feeling of involvement in society, the
opportunity for personal growth, the chance to gain new skills and to meet new people. These
turn the benefits of volunteering into a two-way street, whereby the volunteer can expect
an experience that is enriching personally, if perhaps not monetarily.
Often, there are also more tangible forms of reward and recognition. Organizations that
rely on volunteers usually take special care to let them know that their efforts are appreciated
and do not go unnoticed. They do this in a variety of ways that may range from sending cards
to formal awards ceremonies. For example, Catholic Social Services provides its volunteers with
access to skill-building and personal development workshops, along with other perks, while the
Parkinson’s Society of Alberta puts on a barbecue with entertainment and prizes for participants
in its annual SuperWalk. In 2005, the United Way awarded travel gift certificates to two of its
top fundraisers. These are only a few examples; there are as many different ways of expressing
appreciation to volunteers as there are organizations that depend on them.
In addition to recognition from the individual organizations, volunteers are also honoured by
municipal, provincial and federal governments. For example, the City of Red Deer acknowledges
volunteers through the Mayor’s Recognition Awards, while on a provincial level recipients of
the Stars of the Millennium Volunteer Awards Program are also featured on the Volunteer Wall
of Fame. Children are recognized on a provincial level through the Great Kids Awards presented
by the Ministry of Children’s Services. On a national level, exceptional volunteers have been
inducted into the Order of Canada as acknowledgement of their service. Once again, these are
just a few examples of awards from the different levels of government that are meant to show
appreciation to volunteers on behalf of the public that they serve.
Generally, people volunteer for altruistic reasons, without the expectation of reward.
Naturally, though, those who benefit from the efforts of volunteers desire a chance to say
"thank you." Gestures of appreciation, no matter what form they take, provide the opportunity
for volunteers to understand that they are making a valuable contribution.