#3 Giving Back

Over the past week I have had numerous conversations with a few of the adults in my life. The main topic that I covered in these conversations was lack of volunteerism and its effect on communities.

I talked with two people about the topic of volunteerism and the lack of it among many of our communities. The first person I talked with is Jack. Jack and I talked mainly about how lack of volunteers has affected the fire service. He told me that “When I left the department there were only six or seven of us.” Currently we have close to 20 members of our department. This statement got me thinking if this was as much of a problem as I originally thought. The more that I talked with Jack the more I learned that those six or seven people were dedicated and showed up to everything. I then thought of my own departments and realised something I hadn’t yet realised. We may not have a lack of people wanting to be volunteers but rather a lack of ambition and dedication to what you volunteer for.

After talking with Jack I talked with Harley. From what I had thought about after talking with Jack I approached this conversation a little bit differently. I instead tried to focus more on why this lack of dedication and might exist and its change over the years. Harley as a paramedic has done a lot of volunteer service with different organisations. He told me about how at certain points and with certain situations people start to get burned out. We talked about how for many this feeling comes from dealing with patients overdosing on illegal drugs or with patients that call without their situation really being a emergency. Spending time with these patients makes you feel as if you aren’t making a difference. There could be a little kid with a serious issue a block away and you are busy with the patient with the stubbed toe. That was why he thinks that many people don’t volunteer. Taking in what he just said I decided to ask him why some people do volunteer. “It’s not about being paid, it’s about giving back to your community. They are your people and you want to know that they are getting taken care of.” This again returned to the thought I had after talking with Jack. Maybe we don’t have a lack of people wanting to volunteer but instead a lack of the community.  


“Jack Ross Interview.” Personal interview. 22 Sept. 2016.

Vadnais, Harley. “Volunteerism Interview.” Personal interview. 24 Sept. 2016.

Brennan Bordonaro

4 Responses to “#3 Giving Back

  • Hi Brennan,
    My name is Megan Balparda. I really liked your post, because it reminded me that there is a lot more I could be doing in the community. This brings me to my question. I think your right, and that people do lack the determination to volunteer. Do you volunteer? If so, what are some tips you would you give me, who wants to volunteer, but lacks the determination, time, and courage to find a place to volunteer at?

  • Hi Brennan!

    My name is Lena, I’m an eight grader at the Shelburne Community School and I can’t wait to read your blog posts!

    I think that you pose an important issue, and I’m wondering what else you will discover during your research. Do you think that there is a reason for this trend of fewer volunteers? Or do you believe that this has been an ongoing development?

    I’m excited to begin working with you!

  • Bob Uhl
    8 years ago

    Hi Brennan,

    This is an interesting idea you’re investigating here. Not being a native Vermonter, I can tell you that this state has something of a reputation for being perhaps more community-oriented than your average state. But that’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t problems, and perhaps this reputation is just part of the popular mythology surrounding the state. It’s worth asking what makes a strong community, and what role volunteerism plays there. How come some communities have paid firefighters and others rely on volunteers? Is it a result of population? Budget? A combination of both? What happens, I wonder, if a community can’t recruit enough volunteer emergency personnel? These are just a few questions you might consider should you decide to pursue this topic further.

  • Tom McKenna
    8 years ago

    Hi Brennan,

    Greetings from Juneau. I enjoyed your musings about voluntarism. I appreciate how you are narrating your sense-making through these conversations. I’d like to pick up on one of the points Bob mentions here, too. I guess it’s the chord that Harley strikes for you, and your eventual postulation, “Maybe we don’t have a lack of people wanting to volunteer but instead a lack of the community.”

    This reminds me of a quotation from Kurt Hahn, the founder of the Outward Bound School. Hahn rather famously said, ..”There are three ways of trying to win the young. There is persuasion. There is compulsion, and there is attraction. You can preach at them; that is a hook without a worm. You can say, ‘You must volunteer.’ That is of the devil. And you can tell them, ‘You are needed.’ That hardly ever fails.” My wondering in connection to this Kahn quote is whether what you describe as “a lack of the community” above, could also be a lack of a feeling or perception of being needed. You don’t feel needed when you respond to the stubbed toe, right? But maybe you don’t also when you have a sense that someone else will do it if you don’t?

    In my role as a an elementary school principal, I’m struggling with getting volunteers for our Parent Teacher Association (PTA). I’ve just discovered an article about this specific challenge that suggests it’s more than just being needed that draws many people to volunteer. One new insight to me is that it’s good to to remember that many people volunteer to better develop a skill or talent. There’s a nice little research synopsis of studies of voluntarism (through the lens of getting school volunteers) here: https://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/5940-why-dont-people-volunteer

    If you stay on this topic, I’d love to learn along with you!


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