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  • Writer's pictureBCR Communities

The Unsung Heroes of Volunteering

It’s National Volunteer Week, an opportunity to celebrate the over five million Aussies who generously give close to 600 million hours of their time each year to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

While it’s natural at this time to think of frontline volunteers like surf lifesavers, local bush fire fighters and junior sports coaches, there is another group of unsung heroes we should be celebrating.

Thousands of not-for-profit community organisations across the country would cease to exist without the selfless contribution of their volunteer Board Members.

People like Bay and Basin locals David Reynolds and Ross Clifton who for over 22 years served on the Board of BCR Communities.

Ross and David held highly responsible and demanding full time roles during their Board tenure, but despite their significant workloads, both men volunteered their time on the Board of BCR for over two decades.

Why? Why spend nights discussing financial, governance, compliance and legal documents when you could be relaxing at home after a long day at work? Both said it was a love of their community and a desire to see a unique local initiative thrive.

Ross said “I joined the Board because I really wanted to see the organisation grow and thrive while still preserving what is special about it.”

“BCR is really unique in that it supports the community from the cradle to the grave and it has such a diverse range of services. In my experience, there are not many organisations like it in the community sector.”

“I first started working with BCR as part of my PhD research on change management in community organisations. When my research ended I decided to apply to become a volunteer Board member because the organisation was going through big changes and I felt I had the knowledge and experience to be of service.” Ross said.

David joined the BCR Board not long after moving to the Bay & Basin from Albury Wodonga, seeing it as a way to give back to and be connected with his new community.

“I have always been someone who has been proactive and to me BCR was just an essential part of the community,” David said.

“Back in those days the Bay and Basin was seen as underprivileged and underfunded, there was quite a bit of poverty.”

“BCR seemed like an organisation that was trying to improve things and it was having a positive impact in the community at a number of different levels.”

Anyone who has served on a Board for a period of time will tell you that there can be challenges. Tough decisions have to be made, differences of opinion can ensue and sometimes juggling Board responsibilities with a demanding career and family life can test a person’s resilience and commitment.

Ross and David both agree that the reason for their longevity on the BCR Board was the support and guidance they received from the CEO and Executive team.

 “I don’t recall as a Board member ever going home feeling that I had a lot of weight on my shoulders,” David said.

“The CEO and Executive team would never say to the Board, there is this problem you need to sort out. They would do the research, present a solution to the Board and we would discuss it and make an informed decision.”

David said “The culture at BCR was always very positive, engaging, community-minded and accessible. You felt like you wanted to be a part of it, that you could have a positive impact.”

For the countless hours they have given to BCR over the last 22 years, both Ross and David agree they have been given a deep sense of pride, achievement and connection to their community in return.

“Living where BCR operates, you can really see the difference it makes,” David said.

“The achievements I am most proud of was to grow the organisation without losing its original values of diversity, inclusion and connection to the community, while at the same time building assets and infrastructure behind it,” David said.

For Ross, the real satisfaction and sense of achievement comes from hearing the stories of individuals thriving.

“I remember a young woman who didn’t really know what she wanted to do in life who went through a program run by BCR. She developed the skills and confidence which enabled her to get work and now she runs her own successful business in the Bay & Basin and gives back to the community in return,” Ross said.

“The way the organisation has helped individuals to really shine in the community is what I am most proud of.”

With the rates of volunteering on a steady decline in Australia, Ross and David are urging other professionals to consider giving their time and expertise to not-for-profit organisations. In their opinion while being a Board member is a serious responsibility it is one that can be richly rewarding.

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