With shots going in arms and COVID rates going down, we are looking optimistically to days when the majority of our volunteers will work beside us again. So many of you had to step back from service due to health concerns—and because we asked you to. We have been hearing from many of you that you are as eager to return as we are to have you.
During normal operations, Stepping Stones relies on you, its volunteers, to provide the majority of the human hours that go into our programs. When we are at our best, the staff focuses on facilitating, organizing and preparing for the volunteers. We are force multipliers—you are the force in the community.
There are two main benefits to this volunteer-first approach to providing service to our community. The first of these is financial. When the greater Dunn county community comes together to take care of its own, the resources can go much farther funding your efforts as volunteers than they can for paid staff. A look at the history of what has been accomplished through Stepping Stones is a list of bargains made possible by your hard work.
The second benefit to this approach is found in the community. ‘Community’ is a word that I find myself using often—looking at the preceding paragraphs, maybe too often. It is difficult to come up with a good alternative, though, for this essential element of Stepping Stones. We rely on support from funding and labor alike, but something different comes about when we work beside someone than can occur when writing a check. You, as volunteers, build and reinforce the community that surrounds and runs through our efforts.
Over the past year, as our volunteers have stepped away from service, Stepping Stones has had to grapple with the loss of both benefits. Incredible donations and grants have helped cover the increased demand and cost of operations, but our relationship with the community has become long-distance.
We try to stay in contact, to be sure. We reach out through social media, newsletters, emails and even articles like this one, updating you on how we are doing and telling you that we cannot wait to be reunited.
When that day comes, there will be an adjustment period. Staff and volunteers will need to get used to working together again and our combined efforts will take a while to find a cadence. What a great problem to have, though, compared to the challenges that have faced us over the past year.
I personally know that I will have to relearn a substantial portion of my job. Coming in when I did, there are innumerable essential volunteers and community partners that I have yet to meet, have only met on a screen, or have no idea what half of their faces look like!
I look forward to taking on these challenges, as well—meeting too many people at once, getting people’s names wrong, the butterflies of talking to an actual room full of people. I can’t wait.
Until then, the important work continues. The staff here is amazing.
And, we can’t wait to see you again.
Padraig Gallagher is the executive director of Stepping Stones of Dunn County. He can be reached at email@example.com