Oct. 4, 2013: Volunteers are the prime ingredient for Concordia’s ‘social capital,’ by Robert Steimel

October 4, 2013 by

WEB-BobSteimelMugThe theme of the 2013 Year of Peace Committee columns is “Recognizing Unsung Heroes of Peace.”  Who are these heroes? Uncompensated volunteers!

In general, communities with higher social capital — meaning the benefits that come from people working together — have higher educational achievement, better performing governments, faster economic growth and less crime and violence. People living in these communities are happier, healthier and have a long life expectancy. In these communities, it is easier to mobilize people to tackle problems and easier to undertake things that benefits everyone. Social capital has become a core measure for the health of the community.

Social ties among people can be “bonding social capital” (ties that link individuals or groups with much in common) or “bridging social capital” (ties that link individuals or groups across a greater social distance). Both kinds of connections are valuable to us as individuals.

Furthermore, community building benefits from a sense on the part of the participants that they are part of something important and growing. Situations and organizations that develop redundancy and multistrandedness all help develop the bonds of social capital.

But building social capital is neither all-or-nothing nor once-and-for-all. It is incremental and cumulative. Shared space (opportunities), be it a blood drive, the library, sports events, editorial columns in the paper, band concerts, local coffee groups, fund drives for specific community needs, kids wrestling, etc. are all part of social capital and are important to community.  The 23 church or church-related organizations, the 23 charities represented in the Community Foundation for Cloud County, the governmental units and subdivisions, the public school and their subdivisions and many more nonprofit groups are all signs of Concordia’s social capital.

And it’s important to realize that the main driving force behind these social capital activities is the prime ingredient of individuals — the uncompensated volunteers.

One good example is the annual “Con Kids Wrestling Program” with its 12 or so certified coaches, numerous parents who work with the 75-plus kids with ages ranging from 4 to 18 and experience ranging from 0 to 14 years participating in the program each year. Scholarships are available for the needy. The youth participate in this activity over a four-month period with practices weekly and weekend tournaments starting in December and running through April each year. Many of these volunteers travel to most of the weekly tournaments and help plan and host the “Con Kid’s Wrestling Tournament,” which is one of the bigger (over 500 participants) local meets in the area to support their program activities each year.

Another great example is the Concordia Community Park Project with its 20 committee co-chairs and more than 100 committee members organizing and planning this kid-oriented community-built playground.  This activity will climax with a five-day, “barn-raising” April 23-27, 2014, that will rely on hundreds of people like you to help build, lend tools, feed volunteers, watch their children, donate materials and much more.

These two activities as well as all of our civic clubs, sports clubs and organizations, churches, youth groups, nonprofit service organizations and nonprofit specific cause organizations all rely on the luxury of volunteers. They are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfishness, caring, patience and just plain loving one another. Their very presence transcends politics, religions, ethnic background, marital status, sexism, and even smokers vs. and non-smokers.

Do we as a community remember to say “thank you!” to all of our volunteers?

When you become involved in multiple activities, you’re making an investment in the building of our community. Join us, with your strengths and interests, to grow our community. Share and give yourself in service to your neighbors. Thank you.

— Robert Steimel is a retired CPA and partner with Kennedy and Coe, LLC who serves as the volunteer executive director of the Community Foundation for Cloud County. He and his wife Lorene live in Concordia and are members of the Year of Peace Committee.













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