I was reminded last week of when I was asked to present an award at an event in the Ironworks. It was for the “Highland Wildcats” our very own American football team in Inverness. Part of the ceremony involved a very moving tribute to Bette Paulin who had been the driving force to establish the Wildcats. Bette sadly passed away from ovarian cancer in 2014 and during the very moving tribute there were quotes from many of the boys and young men who felt that their lives had been changed for the better by her dedication and help. She was a volunteer. She gave her time, indeed, a great chunk of life to helping not just the team, but the young men who would be shaped for the better through the lessons and support they would get from taking part.
You might ask why I would mention her now and the answer is that next Wednesday is Volunteer Recognition Day and Bette’s example highlights the debt we all have to volunteers. She was not, is not, alone in performing minor miracles or in changing lives for the better by contributing her time and effort for others and we need an opportunity to celebrate people, not just in reflection of their passing but while they are still with us.
Some of the most amazing and inspiring people I meet don’t even know that they are either amazing or inspiring. To them, they are just doing something they enjoy or feel they want to pitch in, lend a hand or they’ve simply thought “there’s something that needs doing” and I could do that.
These are the people who volunteer, they coach our children in a range of sports, they run the Scouts and the Brownies, they staff the counters of the charity shops, they drive their own cars in voluntary transport, answer the phones to those in need of a friend. They are also sometimes simply the people who look in on an elderly neighbour or pick up the shopping for those who find it difficult to get out. Volunteers do so much else in our communities that I would need more than just this column to list the enormous range of things that they do. Yet they all deserve our recognition because they are amazing and inspiring, sometimes in small ways, sometimes by doing big things. By celebrating their contribution, by telling their stories, we can inspire others to get involved.
Not only that but many of the organisations staffed by volunteers suffer because too few people know about what they do and can have difficulty alerting people, desperately in need of their services and help, to the fact that they even exist to offer them assistance.
That is why I am asking you to tell me of those who deserve our recognition and why you feel that their story deserves to be told. You can let me know about those you would like to receive recognition through my website at www.drewhendrymp.scot Naturally, some of those suggested will not want to have any publicity about the work that they do and readers can rest assured that their wishes will be fully respected although I will write to them privately on your behalf to thank them for what they do. For you, for all of us.