Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:59 PM on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

There's plenty of good news in midst of economic upheaval

By gail edgerly

The news is so disheartening lately. It sounds like we are heading toward deprivation on all fronts. How will all of this economic strife effect the quality of our lives?

After the past two weeks in Homer, I am not so concerned. I am inspired. There has been so much abundance.

There has been lots of rain and lots of sun, and lots of fish. There has been a bustling Farmers' Market with great food, beautiful gardens to visit, Scottish competition, Chopin and chocolate, opportunities to listen and learn music and dance from Zimbabwe, Holy Fire dancing at the bars, a youth reading celebration, parades, circus workshops, a circus performance and more.

And for two weeks we have been serenaded during lunch by talented musicians culminating with a fantastic Concert Gala with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and Homer Community and High School Choirs. And all of this has been on the tails of the Homer Street Faire and Concert on the Lawn.

On Aug. 5, the 50-person Chautauqua Circus pulled into Homer at 4 a.m. Friday morning in a huge bus. They camped out at Homer Council on the Arts, set up an outdoor kitchen and gave and gave and gave to Homer for two days. They were all volunteers. They raised money and applied for grants for food and gas, so they could entertain and inspire us (and others around Alaska). They all left their jobs and families to travel for a month to do what they love to do: perform magic with juggling, props, music, aerials, acrobatics and stories. Those of us who went to the workshops or watched, loved it all.

All of these events were either organized, logistically supported and/or presented by volunteers. And that is what is going to keep the quality of our lives rich and full. Volunteering does not just provide extra hands. You meet people, network, connect and learn skills. I am employed at Homer Council on the Arts because of what I learned as a volunteer back in Maine on the board of a museum. My background and education are in health care, but now I direct a nonprofit arts council. I never would have guessed...

For years I avoided volunteering, thinking that I should be paid for whatever I do. I thought I was not valued as a woman if I volunteered and that I shouldn't just give myself away. I was wrong. Volunteering is about valuing what you love and what is important to you. Nonprofit organizations are rooted in the passion for a cause. They totally rely on volunteers, donations, memberships, grants and fundraisers in order to manifest their mission.

Volunteering starts at home or walking down the street, by valuing the space you live in, those you live with and your community: volunteering to do the dishes, mow the lawn, fold the laundry, pick up litter on the road, open the door for someone, check on a neighbor.

So when I hear the stories of dropping stocks and budget cuts, I remind myself that stepping in and volunteering my time and service will not only support the quality of life wherever I live, but it will enhance my life with the connections I make, skills I learn and the inner satisfaction of supporting what I value and making a difference in my community.

Thank you to all of those whose volunteer efforts make Homer such a vibrant and rich community. I invite all of us to step in a little more as our world continues to shift and change. I think we are heading toward a time of needing to depend on each other more and more and truthfully, I am looking forward to it.

Gail Edgerly is the director of the Homer Council on the Arts and a volunteer.