Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Volunteers - their giving, their concerns and their rewards

In any community, there are people who wish to give their time for their neighbors benefit. A volunteer is after all, part of a community with similar issues and concerns and often a similar value system. The community goes to church together; they shop together; they walk and exercise together. In The Woodlands Texas, we are in the midst of an election to select individuals to volunteer positions, neighbors who we want to lead in community activities, to protect our home investment and to make our home environment as pleasant as feasible. Some of the positions are for one year; others are for two.

Those of us who give our time, we want to be appreciated. The giving is one thing, the appreciation for it another. When I started giving my time to the community, I was simply amazed how the community supported their volunteers. There were group activities where you worked side by side with others in The Woodlands and socialized with them a little as you worked for the cause at hand. What was really tremendous was the social party at the end of the year. There would be dinner, volunteer awards, association staff awards, remembrances and celebration of the year's accomplishments, a memory keepsake for each volunteer and wife, and dancing. I remember meeting many of the leaders in the community right there, eating dinner with them and their spouses, talking to them over a glass of wine and d'oeuvres before the event. The first year of the Township brought a huge change to how the volunteers were treated. Instead of the celebration and the social mix, we had a hand shaking and hugs from the Township Board of Directors. Thanks was expressed this year by word from the Chairman of the board, a gift and a photo. This year we also find ourselves one major community event shorter than before. We will not have an Earth Day. I hope this is not setting a trend for the future. Already, in one year, two community values have been compromised.

So what happened? The board decided to find a cheap way to tell the volunteers thank you. Simple as that. I can tell you from my point of view that my wife did not appreciate being ignored. The wisdom and learning of the past has been thrown out the door. In comes with the new order. Forget the past and our heritage. Let's start all over, because after all, the Woodlands Association is no more. What wisdom could there possibly have been in the leaders of the past anyway? We will all see our values compromised until we get people into office who seek opinion, bounce ideas off others and in general, not be so business-centric.

Although I don't want to be overly negative or be unappreciative for what the board did, quite frankly, they spent millions of dollars on things we don't need and did not spend it on what really matters - the community. Will the lack of social interaction for volunteers impact what gets done here? It certainly will. We have enough problems with getting people out to vote and to care about our community without the Township Board putting a lid on it. To me this was a disaster. The first year of the Township, and we get a significant error in the handling of our volunteers.

To make it worse, as a volunteer, I expressed my regret of this to a board member. I simply said "I did not like the new way. I much preferred the old way of showing appreciation." The response? "What's wrong Randy, you don't like change, do you?"  My response was simple enough. Of course I like change, but I don't like changing something that is great into something that is awful. How can a Director of the government of The Woodlands make such a comment in a public meeting? It would be good if the Board of Directors give thought into what they change and ask questions. I learned long ago, as a project manager, that stakeholders are the first to be asked in any change affecting them. Were you asked? I wasn't, just like I was not asked about any decision this year. I suspect you weren't either!

Something is wrong here. I will let you think about it and maybe you want to comment on it here. I have given a great deal of thought to what this board has done and not done, what their skills are and what their skills are not. They have made positive strides, but they have also made some serious blunders. We have an election coming up.  It is time to reflect on the first year, where we are, where we are going and what skills are needed on the board.

It is also time right now to vote for volunteer leaders for the villages. I encourage you to participate on the RDRCs and on the boards of the villages. If you can't, please support those who are willing to work for you. Vote for them. These people are the grass roots, from which ideas grow and social interaction brings people together for the good of the community. It is easy to vote; it takes about three minutes to do during convenient voting this week. Details are found on the Township website (click here). The location is the Woodlands Township Service Center on Lake Woodlands Drive across from the Methodist Church, just west of Market Street and HEB.

Yes, I am running for a position - President of Indian Springs Village. But like I have been saying, this is not about me, it is about your community. Please be a part of it and help in any way you can. It is important who we put into office!

1 comment:

Scott said...

I normally agree with most of what you say (and I do appreciate all you do for the community), but I must admit that this blog post comes across as whining.

To volunteer is to perform a service willingly and without pay. If you are doing something for a reward, then you are not volunteering at all.

I do agree with your displeasure in the millions of wasted dollars by the Township, but I would definitely include a social gathering with wine and d'oeuvres as frivolous and displeasurable.