Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Small Town Values

There’s kind of a uniqueness in small towns that is too often overlooked.

It isn’t the cafe that everyone flocks to because the cook/owner is also the founder from 50 years ago. It isn’t that kids can generally walk the neighborhoods without fear, or that they can leave skateboards and bicycles in the yard without them being taken.

It is the paradox. There are organizations that are vital to making a town home that are constantly running into roadblocks. The roadblocks are not physical or political, They are often the results of a work ethic butting against a program that exists by volunteers. It’s not a foolproof observation, but it does happen.

The guy who could man the grill for the community good-doers organization also has a full time construction job and designs homes at night, The woman who makes cakes like a professional is also a nurse with a private pay contract or two… because she likes taking care of people.

There are exceptions. When I was in college I recall guy running for student council president. The guy who spoke for him referenced a quote: “If you want to get something done, find someone who is already busy. That person has to have developed time management skills.”

The same applies when seeking volunteers, sometimes to the extreme. Find someone who wants to support that program, encourage and support them, but set them loose. Also support them so they don’t get overwhelmed.

There is an “equation” frequently used when talking about volunteering, “the 80-20 Rule,” 80 percent of the work gets done by 20 percent of the membership. It is a sober reminder that volunteerism is what makes the magic of small town community challenging. Attitudes and pride get in the way as much as work schedules, quickly leading to the 20 percent factor. Kept to its possible end, volunteers burn out and organizations fall to the history books. With it goes the character of a community, the improvements and community events that could have happened.

The question then, is what does a community do about it. The work ethic organizations seek in volunteers, hiring managers also need. One point that was offered in a recent discussion is if companies could support, even encourage, employees to take part in volunteer projects. It could work… if the companies and residents are committed.

It will take both the programs and agencies, and the people to meet.

The events we have in Sidney and Cheyenne County that make our part of the Panhandle special, survive on volunteer labor. Pick your passions and commit to success.


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