Vol­un­teers and fairies-at-heart

The Covington News - - Front page -

There’s one thing in par­tic­u­lar that amazes me about liv­ing in Cov­ing­ton: That’s the num­ber of vol­un­teers and vol­un­teer­based or­ga­ni­za­tions that are at work in this com­mu­nity year ’round. Among our friends, all are vol­un­teer­ing some­where. It can be­come a way of life. It’s been in my blood for years since I was in­vited onto the board of the At­lanta Com­mu­nity Food Bank and worked the check-out reg­is­ter in its cav­ernous food ware­house.

This is Na­tional Vol­un­teer Week, an ap­pro­pri­ate time to rec­og­nize the vol­un­teers who peo­ple this com­mu­nity and who make things hap­pen that pub­lic funds — or the lack thereof — could never ac­com­plish.

I say of­ten with feel­ing and con­fi­dence that Cov­ing­ton, Newton County and its mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are a vol­un­teer-driven com­mu­nity. Vol­un­teers and the or­ga­ni­za­tions they serve give this com­mu­nity tex­ture, vi­tal­ity, color and hope and cre­ate mean­ing­ful and some­times fun ways to ful­fill needs in our midst. They turn lives around or save them, build com­mu­nity spirit and aware­ness and show us how much more can be ac­com­plished by work­ing to­gether. FaithWorks, for ex­am­ple, has uni­fied 35 churches to pro­vide emer­gency rent and util­ity as­sis­tance.

The Newton Fund of The Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion for Greater At­lanta re­cently sur­veyed 24 lo­cal non­prof­its about vol­un­teerism. Of those 24, 12 had at least 50 vol­un­teers do­nat­ing time ev­ery week. The num­ber of vol­un­teer hours logged weekly ranged from 10 to over 80 hours.

Vol­un­teer­ing one’s time has an eco­nomic im­pact. Many peo­ple give money to fa­vorite causes, but giv­ing time might be even more valu­able and is, in it­self, a form of phi­lan­thropy. (If you’re a vol­un­teer, feel free to call your­self a phi­lan­thropist, a term more reg­u­larly ap­plied to the likes of Bill Gates.) Ac­cord­ing to In­de­pen­dent Sec­tor, a prom­i­nent con­sor­tium of na­tional non­prof­its and foun­da­tions, an hour of vol­un­teer time is worth $20.85. Lo­cal non­prof­its es­ti­mated the value of their vol­un­teers in sums rang­ing from $2,000 to six fig­ures up to $1,000,000 per year.

One of the lo­cal non­prof- its with which I am most fa­mil­iar is Friends of Newton Parks, Inc. It‘s a group with plans to de­velop the ur­ban wood­land be­hind the Newton County Li­brary — Chim­ney Park — with el­e­ments for peo­ple of all ages and abil­i­ties to be able to en­joy an out­door ex­pe­ri­ence, to con­nect with Mother Na­ture for all the ben­e­fits that re­search has proven. (A dis­claimer: I am cur­rently vice-chair of the Friends board.)

This is one of the busiest times of the year over at Chim­ney Park. To­mor­row marks the sec­ond an­nual Fairy Houses at Chim­ney Park where “kids” of all ages, many in themed cos­tumes, will turn out to view an amaz­ing ar­ray of hand­made fairy houses built of all nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and to en­joy sto­ry­telling near a fairy ring, re­fresh­ments, crafts, a wildlife ex­hibit and a may­pole dance. Last year, the event drew some 1,500 at­ten­dees. All raf­fle and silent auc­tion pro­ceeds will boost the park cof­fers. The event it­self is free. Hm­mmm, sounds like a great place to take the fam­ily, right?

Well let me tell you that it takes some very cre­ative, ded­i­cated, hard-work­ing, be­hind-the-scenes “fairies- at-heart” to pull off such an event. Laun­dry doesn’t get done, mail goes un­opened, whole liv­ing rooms get con­verted into fairy work­shops, meals — who has time? Some of these “fairies” are walk­ing around with scars and blis­ters from the hot glue guns used in mak­ing many of the houses. At the park it­self, these windy days cre­ate an ever ac­cu­mu­lat­ing pile of de­bris that needs to be col­lected and hauled off by vol­un­teers. There’s emerg­ing poi­son ivy to be sprayed. Vol­un­teers are at work to­day and to­mor­row morn­ing hang­ing but­ter­fly wings and wind chimes, blow­ing up bal­loons, erect­ing the may­pole, set­ting up craft ta­bles, chairs and tents and in­stalling sig­nage. More vol­un­teers will show up for show time at 2 p.m. to lead the scav­enger hunt, sell raf­fle tick­ets, staff the craft ta­bles, hand out re­fresh­ments, tell the sto­ries and or­ga­nize the may­pole dance.

Please come and en­joy your­selves, but be aware of the un­named fairy vol­un­teers lurk­ing in the woods who did all this for you.

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