By Melanee Sinclair
They fulfill a drive found deep within their souls. If asked, “Why do you do it?”, more likely than not they might say, “Do what?” They are the people who provide valuable community services; without them, our community would not be what it is today.
Giving back to the community comes naturally to them. Perhaps it is within them because they have long standing family traditions of giving back to their community. Perhaps their parents or grandparents were instrumental in the formation of the organizations they serve. Maybe they serve because their family benefitted from the services provided and they aspire “to pay it forward.” Some serve as a way of ensuring services that their children received are available to children in the future. Some serve in spite of the community, and have been discouraged about giving back. Some are advised by their friends or family to spend their hours more productively. Some are discouraged from their passion with comments of “What has the community done for us?” Regardless of their reasons, they choose to spend their time and energy investing in their community, rather than doing something else with their “free time.”
There is the family that spends the holiday serving food to others. The individual that spends countless days and nights working on that special fundraising event for a local hospital. The man that serves as a mentor to a child in need of a positive influence. The person that provides design services to a local non-profit organization in need of flyers. The woman that organizes the clothes donated to a local charity. The group that tackles a holiday toy drive. The girl that serves as an usher for the symphony. The boy that plans and builds a garden. The young man that cleans animal stalls at the local zoo. The group of young people that paint a graffiti-covered wall. The woman that makes sure children have a holiday meal. The family that hauls horses to the shelter. The couple that purchases a building to start a non-profit from the ground up, in order to serve other heroes. The mother who serves as a homeroom helper. The group that prepares food for a fundraiser. The father that coaches the youth hockey team – and the grandpa too. The friends that come together to clean out a flooded house or store. The group that comes to a friend’s aid when a simple phone call is made.
Some are well known in the community for the day-job they do; we evaluate their contributions based on this facet of their lives. For many of them, what they do outside of their careers or profession is more important anyway. They work for a paycheck not their passion. Their true passion shines when you see them in service. If we truly wish to see them for who they really are, we need to look at the “complete package.”
Many of these individuals are reluctant to tell the whole story behind their passion to serve. They tear up if you ask them “Why?” They serve because of some deep scar within themselves or their families that they wish or need to remain private. Others shout to whoever will listen the story behind their dedication. Themes of “If not me, then who?” resound. Truth be told, they are probably as “right, as they are righteous.” They serve because others won’t or can’t. They serve because others have served before them, and they understand that their good works will survive them too. They know that the work that they do is tireless, and that they are just serving their time.
Some give their money as well as their time. Though religious tenets vary, most have as a core value the giving of your time, talents, and resources. Making financial contributions to the various organizations in need in the community allows these organizations to continue or thrive. Without financial supporters many of our community organizations would cease to exist because other sources of financial support are not available.
Those who provide these services will probably never be publicly recognized for the contributions they make to our community – that’s not why they volunteer anyway. Individual organizations may applaud these people for the contributions they have made to the specific cause; however, the rest of our community will remain unaware. In some instances the organization that benefits from their service might not appreciate the value of their service; it is only apparent to those looking in from the outside. Newspaper articles won’t be written about them. They will not receive the “citizen of the year” award. Their name will not be listed on a plaque displayed in a public place. Regardless of recognition, we should appreciate the service they have provided. Without them, our community would be less rich, less dynamic, and less attractive. They are the individuals that make Wheeling what it is. Should they move away from the area, our community would be less because of the loss. Should they tire of giving back without so much as a “Thank You,” we can only hope that they will pass the torch to another.
They are the unsung heroes of our valley. As one that has attended community events, been treated at the hospital, seen the power of mentoring and advocacy, needed assistance to complete a task, and required assistance to rescue a pony, I appreciate the unsung heroes who have provided a service so that I – and our community – might benefit. “Thank You” for your service.