By Jenn Watt
Without volunteers, many local organizations would not function.
We all know this implicitly and feel it when we interact with one of the hundreds (if not thousands) of local volunteers who make the wheels of the Highlands turn.
But have we ever thought about the financial burden these people are lifting from our community? The number of services that, were they not completed by good-hearted people, would be out of our reach to afford?
This week, we surveyed a few of the dozens of local organizations that use volunteers to do work for the community. One of them, the Haliburton County Folk Society, provided us with the hours volunteers put in over one year: 1,250.
If those volunteers were paid minimum wage, you would need more than $14,000 in addition to the costs of bringing award-winning musicians to the Highlands, booking space, printing materials, etc. There are about 15 volunteers who make it all happen.
Extrapolate that information to other services across the Highlands and you get an awesome picture.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services, for example, has 500 volunteers. You read that right. Five hundred. Interim CEO Carolyn Plummer told the Echo that those people put in tens of thousands of hours a year. Likely some $200,000 of work is done yearly just for HHHS.
You can see how this adds up.
In 2012, TD Bank did an analysis of volunteer hours in Canada based on 2010 figures. They estimated some $50 billion of economic activity in one year alone.
“If the value of volunteer work were a company, it would be in the league of the largest firms in Canada listed in the S&P/TSX Composite Index – on the basis of market capitalization – sandwiched between corporate giants like Suncor Energy and the Canadian National Railway,” the economists wrote.
Certainly, in Haliburton County, the value of volunteers is substantial. Without them, we not only would lose many of the services our personal incomes and/or tax dollars could never support, but we would lose the economic activity that comes from their efforts.
Volunteer drivers allow people to stay in the county even when they are sick. Volunteer dental professionals allow people with low-incomes to improve their health and their confidence – and in many cases their employability – by doing free surgeries and procedures. Volunteers in the arts sector offer culture and entertainment that attracts people to restaurants and local shops and gives the area texture and substance.
Without our volunteers we would not only lose services we enjoy, but the economic benefits that come with them. And for that, we offer a hearty thank you.