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When it comes to volunteering, you gotta put up or shut up

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I swore last year that we would never go to Cub Scout Day Camp again. After three days of loosely planned activities, other people’s ill-behaved boys, wind-whipped hair and a sunburn (my mom told me that I needed to wear sunscreen, even on overcast days but I didn’t listen), I decided that next year I would plan our summer vacation for the same week as Cub Scout Camp.

Even though we registered weeks in advance last year, the first day of camp we stood in line for an hour and a half to check in. I’ve never stood in line for that long for anything. (Well, except for tickets to the Star Wars movies, but that kind of mania is another post for another day.) Have you ever stood in line for an hour and a half with 150 eight to ten year-old boys? Not fun. I did all the standing. My boys, along with 148 others ran and rolled and wrestled, while the other well-meaning mothers and I grew increasingly impatient.

After standing in line we were put in our groups. The plan was that for every five boys from your pack that participated, you needed to provide one walking leader?? Okay, that sounded fair. I brought five boys from my pack, all well behaved somewhat manageable. All of them knew me and I knew their folks. So I had the option of threatening to call their dads if they got out of line.

But everything went horribly wrong when Scouts started showing up without the intended ratio of five-to-one adult supervision, as specified by the camp. Instead of five boys, I ended up with 12, one of whom was not even a Cub Scout. I think his mom just saw the sign and thought, “Hey, free day care!”

Despite the fact that it was hot, the activities were under-staffed and the adults were outnumbered twelve to one, I tried to make the best of it. I mentally prepared myself to walk with the boys from station to station, handle the scuffles and whining, but I hadn’t prepared for planning a skit or teaching them the rules of badminton. Two skills that I was thankfully able to reach far back into the gray matter and retrieve having myself been a camper in a previous life.

Of the two and a half days of knot tying, wood working, and first aid instruction, it was the BB gun shooting the boys enjoyed the most. After they would take their turn shooting they would swagger over to another kid and brag about how many targets they hit. They would stick their chest out and deepen their voices, as they would strategize about how they are going to beat their previous record. Boy after boy turned a little bit more into man with the toppling of each tin can.

I must have brain damage because we signed up again. I volunteered again to be a “walking leader.” Why you ask? Why would I go back? Because I believe that when it comes to volunteering, you have to put up or shut up. Nothing makes me more upset than to have parents moan and complain about camp or team sports or school activities when they themselves have not a single volunteer hour to their credit.

You know the type. They are the first to complain about too many sugar snacks at the class party, but have yet to bring any themselves. They are the parents that challenge the ref when he calls Junior’s swing a strike, but have never volunteered to be the team manager. They are the ones that say that the equipment on the playground is too old, but have never participated in any of the school fundraisers. So if I want to have my say, make my suggestions, or voice my complaints, I feel like I had better have a record of involvement to back it up.

The camp organizers assured me that this year was going to be better. I hope so! Or next year I will just buy a couple of BB guns and take my boys out to the desert and let them make Swiss cheese out of aluminum cans. They’ll still get the testosterone rush they crave that comes with shooting stuff up and I’ll spare myself from having to witness the death of volunteerism first hand.

How do you volunteer? Have you seen a decline in participation in your organization? How can we keep volunteerism alive?

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Comments
  • comment avatar Karen April 22, 2008

    This makes me glad I have girls. πŸ™‚ But I hear you on volunteering. If I don’t do it, who else will?

  • comment avatar Lizzy April 22, 2008

    I feel the same way. If I want the right to complain I better earn it by trying to do it right myself.

    My daughter is in a girl scout type of group that is run by all the mothers. When ever there is a month where no one volunteers to host the monthly meeting I try to fill in and be hostess. If this program fails I don’t want it to be because of me.

  • comment avatar Physcokity April 23, 2008

    I feel the same way about voting. If you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain.

  • comment avatar Karen April 23, 2008

    Here, here on both elections AND volunteering!

  • comment avatar Karen April 23, 2008

    Errr…that should be HEAR, HEAR. πŸ™‚

  • comment avatar Kagey April 23, 2008

    I grew up the daughter of the Scout Master and the 4-H Leader. I don’t know how you get your kids involved in activities without realizing that YOU are now involved!
    I have helped pack for more campouts I didn’t go on, made more tie slides to reward boys for achieving their wolf or bear badges than I can count. And I was the sister, not the parent!
    Heck, at our 4-H meetings, have the time we had to recess the meeting for kids to get parents’ opinions on a topic before we voted.
    And yes, everyone from the 7 yr old to the high school senior voted – following parliamentary procedures. But that’s a different rant.

  • comment avatar Nancy Face April 23, 2008

    I have worked as a volunteer in school classrooms on a weekly basis; helped with class parties; chaperoned numerous field trips and out of state junior high and high school choir trips…but I never once did Cub Scout Day Camp, with either one of my sons. It is VERY hot in Phoenix in June! (Don’t hate me!) But my poor hubby DID help at Cub Scout Day Camp, and even survived to tell the tale! He had about as much fun as you did.

  • comment avatar Nancy Face April 23, 2008

    Wait…what’s wrong with sugar snacks at class parties? πŸ˜‰

  • comment avatar Della April 24, 2008

    People are afraid to volunteer because they are worried it will be more work than they wanted or will be asked again and get stuck with a longer-term commitment. What they don’t get is that the more volunteers, the easier and faster the jobs become. When we break down chairs and clean up after a boy scout meeting, isn’t it faster with many people or is it left to a few parents to have to stay late to clean up? I volunteer in Sunday school where we have a few teachers for probably 50 kids. We constantly ask for help but get no response. Where are the 50 pairs of parents? It would only take a few more parents to work one Sunday once in a while to give the few dedicated volunteers time off. I do love and believe in what I do but I don’t like feeling that I’m… stuck with a long-term commitment when I really just intended to help once in a while along with other parents!

  • comment avatar Darlene Geist May 9, 2008

    I wanted so badly for my grandson to go to cub scout camp for the past 5 years but he was not interested and his parents did not have time. If he had decided to go it would have been grandma who would have gone with him. I sure am glad now that my grandson did not want to go. Thank you, Annie!

    Guilt free grandma at last!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson March 29, 2013

    Here’s what I’ve found in my kids’ classes: 90 percent of the parents do nothing and the burden falls on the 10 percent. I completely understand that parents are busy, many work and money can be tight. But there are certainly ways everyone can help!

  • comment avatar Lindley A March 29, 2013

    I am the secretary for our PTO at a school with over 700 students. It is so frustrating for myself and the other 4 PTO officers that we donate so much time and energy to planning fundraisers, spirit nights and carnivals, etc. but we only have about 10 people who consistently volunteer their time to help run these events.

    People are great about participating in school events and even donating candy, baked goods, supplies and any items we may may need, but when it comes to volunteering for a half hour at a bake sale or book fair, we really struggle.

    Any ideas to encourage volunteerism? It is exhausting and stressful to us that we are spending so much of our own time, but if we don’t do it, it seems like nobody will and we definitely want the best educational experience for our students and want to do everything we can to support our teachers.

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