Volunteerism was applauded at different levels at the Town of Fort Myers Beach Advisory Board Appreciation Dinner at DiamondHead Beach Resort on Thursday evening.
Members of Town Council and Town staff as well as a volunteer center manager expressed gratitude for the efforts by former and present community-minded individuals on Estero Island who have taken the time to give their time to Town advisory committees.
"I want to welcome and thank everyone here tonight who certainly have volunteered and spent hours and energy on behalf of our town," said Vice Mayor Alan Mandel, who offered welcoming words.
Former volunteers of the Town of Fort Myers Beach received plaques for their time philanthropy on committees and advisory boards. Carrie Hill, Dan Andre, Roger Johnson and Dennis Kovach (l to r) were among those honored by Mayor Bob Raymond (far right) and others.
"We all appreciate what you've all done for us," said Mayor Bob Raymond.
Former Mayor Larry Kiker referred to the Town volunteers as leaders and heroes by drawing comparisons to earlier times.
"Leadership changed over time because some guy or gal went out front and took the first arrow or spear and came back alive. When you talk about leadership and what you folks have done for our town, you've taken the arrows and spears for us, " he said. "To me, I think you call them heroes now. That's what you are."
"By your service to our community, every one of you out there is making a difference in people's lives," added Town Manager Terry Stewart.
Speaker Kim Berghs of the non-profit United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties presented a general outlook on volunteerism. She pointed out volunteers are needed more now then ever.
"The need for volunteers never disappeared, but it now has a new urgency," she said. "We're here to help people get connected with opportunities to serve, whether it's a business group, a church group or a 12-year old."
Berghs referenced Benjamin Franklin's insight to volunteerism.
"He believed that people volunteering together in the spirit of cooperation could accomplish great things," she said. "When volunteers find solutions in our community, it obviously shows. People feel they can personally make a difference by giving of their time."
Time philanthropists became the new word for volunteers.
Berghs broke down perspectives of volunteerism to cover a span of generations. Those born in the "Silent Generation" between 1925 and 1945 are called "foot soldiers in a new army of volunteers" because volunteering was a lifestyle. Those born in the "Baby Boomer Generation" between 1946 and 1964 are drawn to social causes and projects such as hunger. Those born in "Generation X" between 1965 and 1981 call volunteerism a good thing but not always a priority. Those born in "Generation Y" between 1982 and 2005 are called civic-minded and socially conscious.
Studies show the act of volunteering is expected to add years to one's life.
"Whatever generation you identify with, it's been said that if you stay active and concerned and are connected with your community, it will in turn improve your quality of life," said Berghs. "It is also a way to meet others who have similar mindsets of helping others while involving themselves in the community. Researchers have found that volunteers experience emotional and physical responses when helping others that are similar to a vigorous exercise. To think that when you are enriching someone's life, it gets that blood circulating. It's almost like working out."
With help, volunteerism could be addictive.
"There are no challenges facing our society," said Berghs. "Together, we know we can create opportunities for a better life for everybody in our community.