Leadership Londonderry, which has trained residents in the inner workings of their government and given them the background as well as the skills to volunteer for their community, is taking a break.
New Hampshire’s many forms of government all share a core value – decisions are made on the local level. And helping out by volunteering for a town board or commission is about as local as it gets.
In recent years, however, fewer people have signed up and committed to the multiple weeks of Leadership Londonderry’s informational programming. This year it won’t be offered. Some of the program organizers are focusing instead on planning an auditorium for the town. That will take another volunteer effort, and people can spread themselves only so far.
Last year in Hampstead, the Community Resources Association folded, with some activities taken over by established groups, others going by the wayside as people’s lives and interests changed.
As our lives remain busy, whether commuting long distances to and from jobs; attending children’s after-school, weekend and evening activities; or just carving out personal time to relax, we all do something that competes with volunteering.
And the lack of volunteers is not confined to official groups. Local historical societies face empty rooms, veterans groups don’t have the membership of generations ago, and service organizations need more members.
Of course, there’s always the occasional official whose attitude serves only to send potential volunteers scurrying in the opposite direction. You could use the Derry Town Council as an example – or those councilors who supported a non-public session to “find out” what volunteer town historian Rick Holmes does and whether he should be occasionally sharing a Municipal Center office. We can’t imagine what part of that session merited excluding the public – or Holmes, for that matter. And it was a great way to show how little volunteers are appreciated – and how little homework the new Councilors have done. Maybe a Leadership Derry is needed.
But in most cases, the generous spirit that makes festivals happen, youth recreation programs blossom, and neighbors helping neighbors can be practiced wherever you live, at whatever level of involvement you choose.
Maybe it’s something as small as cleaning up the trash along a stretch of road, or planting flowers by the mailbox. It could be helping plan a community festival.
But what’s common to them all is the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you are helping to shape what your community is going to become. And what you will leave to those who come after.
We think it’s worth a try.