An aging population of volunteers

By Vivian Collings

St. George’s Anglican Church has decided to end their Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner after hosting it for almost a decade.

For the past two years, it was cancelled due to COVID-19 health measures with the hope of returning as soon as it could safely be held again.

This year, it’s cancelled because of wanting to avoid the spread of illness, yes, but also because of a different epidemic: A lack of young volunteers.

The average age of their congregation is 75.

Lots of those people have been involved in the event for decades.

The ending of the pancake dinner is sad, but we can’t expect the same volunteers to put in long hours of physical work to make it happen.

It’s certainly time to pass the tradition along.

But, where is the willingness of the next generation?

When I talked to the organizer Louise Sisson, she said they are not the only ones facing this shortage of willing young people.

From what I’ve seen, she’s right.

It’s a big problem everywhere in Haliburton County and the country as a whole.

My very first editorial was for County Life several months ago. It was called You get what you give, and I wrote it about the importance of volunteering for one’s health.

It’s good for our mental health as individuals to use our own skills and abilities to help others, but volunteerism is crucial to the health of the community, too.

Volunteers are the ones that make these big community events happen.

These events are enjoyed by all generations. They’re meant to bring everyone together.

The Highland Yard annual running event was just passed down to Rotaract Haliburton Highlands, a service club of young adults.

But Rotaract is just one group and can’t take on much more than one or two big events a year.

Rotaract is a really incredible group, but the problem is that it’s pretty small, and many of the members are also involved in lots of other organizations, too. 

This is a good thing, but it also means they have less time to devote to everything they’re involved in.

We need more “doers” like this.

I know that our population’s age distribution plays a part. We certainly have more seniors than children thanks to the baby boom starting after the Second World War.

But, the average age of Canadians is 42 years old and the average age of those living in Haliburton County is 52 years old.

So yes, we have less young people in comparison, but we still exist. We have lots of young people here.

I would say that a big percentage of the people I went to public school with have moved back to the area and are here to stay, which is so great.

But we need to volunteer if we want to keep our big events going.

Looking back on the past summer, it was service clubs that made all of our favourite things happen like concerts and carnivals.

The average Rotarian is 58. The average Lion is 57. 

What would Haliburton be be without the vibrancy of these events hosted by these groups and many others?

Not only do they keep us close and encourage connection, but they also attract visitors that contribute to our tourism sector.

Volunteer-run events are the heart of the community, and we can’t let them fade away.