April is National Volunteer Month, and the third week of April is celebrated as National Volunteer Week.

National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 (under President Nixon) and has grown exponentially each year.

National Volunteer Week provides an opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their energy, time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community.

During National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of people who care to come together to tackle tough challenges and make their communities stronger and more vibrant.

National Volunteer Week gives us a chance to shine a light on those people and causes that inspire us to serve.

Much has been in the news lately concerning the need for additional volunteers in many civic organizations and various departments – from fire departments to Rotary and Ruritan Clubs.

It’s simply a fact of life: More volunteers are needed every day and everywhere.

Local volunteers often go unnoticed and unrecognized as they quietly fill gaps that otherwise would be left unfilled.

And there are never enough volunteers to meet all the needs in a community.

Consider for a moment if you will – efforts are always underway to recruit more people willing to give of their time and talents.

All residents have some talent or skill that could be useful to local community-minded organizations, be it a Lions Club, Rotary Club, Ruritan Club, fire department, rescue squad, school, church or a health care facility.

No matter the skill – anything from literacy and language skills, medical expertise, or simply free time and empty hands, there are plenty of opportunities nearby for all sorts of people.

Local entities actively hunting for volunteers right now are the county’s volunteer fire departments.

Chances are if you know an active volunteer, he or she probably has been doing it for a long time because they enjoy doing something worthwhile, and they get something out of it, too.

Just take a look around you – whether it’s a handful of dedicated Ruritans or Rotarians picking up trash along the roadsides, hospital helpers guiding visitors to their destinations or firefighters leaving the safety of their homes in a moment’s notice to place themselves in harm’s way to help their friends, neighbors and other residents of their communities – we all need to realize how grateful and thankful we should be for all those who volunteer to serve and how fortunate we are to have them.

One example that constantly stands out in my mind is volunteer fire department members who are exactly that … volunteers. They give of their time and effort to train to fight different types of fires in any environment or situation. They must learn to deal with whatever perils they may encounter in a fire in order to save lives and possessions. 

Volunteer firefighters learn first-aid in order to help the injured. They learn to operate fire apparatus, tools and equipment in order to perform their duties better. They also constantly train to keep their skills honed to a fine edge.

What benefits do they receive for their efforts? Most of the time, a simple “thank you” is all they receive, and for most, it is appreciated and enough.

These caring, unselfish community servants many times go without reward for their efforts. We too often take them for granted, but stop and think about it, this county’s residents would be in a world of hurt if they weren’t here and willing to respond at each tone.

And don’t forget all the extra fundraising duties they have to assume because of tight budgets.

Thank yous are greatly appreciated, but these volunteer firefighters need our financial support too. 

Because they are generally self-sustaining, county volunteer fire departments hold special events to raise funds to provide for their needs throughout the year. 

Some events in past years that quickly spring to mind have included the following: the North Halifax VFD Annual Marathon, Liberty VFD Annual Fall Jubilee, Scottsburg VFD-sponsored Fourth of July Celebration and Haunted House, Virgilina VFD-sponsored Virgilina Summerfest, Cluster Springs VFD’s annual $10,000 raffle, the South Boston Volunteer Fire Company’s Bingo and $10,000 annual raffle and other such events that have helped raise the much-needed funds enabling the local fire departments to provide services to the communities in the county. 

Other such events have included Triangle VFD’s Haunted Trail, Midway’s Mud Bog, and Halifax holds its annual Catfish Tournament.

Over the years, the various fire departments have continued to cook stews, hold raffles, sponsor steak dinners, hold breakfast events, sponsor professional wrestling, solicit door-to-door and hold other events to raise funds. 

We need to support our fire departments by attending their events and participating in the activities they sponsor, because fire equipment and training does not come cheap.

Our local volunteer fire departments make our homes and communities safer for all of us. So next time you see your volunteer firefighters somewhere out in the community at a restaurant, church, or wherever, take time to say “thank you.”

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to say these two little words, but they mean so very much.

And when that tone goes off signaling another fire somewhere, whisper a prayer for their safety too.

We cannot say enough about what they mean to our county and towns.

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.​

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.