Here’s to those who volunteer


These are the members of the Minnesota chapter of the Ninety-Nines, female aviators, doing something pretty ordinary, I suppose, and therein lies the meaning to consider on a weekend celebrating the founding of a country — people who do stuff.

Last evening, they were painting a compass rose on the airport tarmac at South St. Paul’s Fleming Field, the one they’d earlier painted having been destroyed by a resurfacing project.

IMAG0758Their handiwork is visible — from the sky anyway — at small airports all over Minnesota, pointing the way north, still a valuable navigational tool, even in the era of GPS.

It also honors the program of identifying airports to pilots. The National Air Marking Program was the first U.S. government program conceived, planned and directed by a woman with an all-woman staff.

But that’s not really the point.

They were doing it on a Friday evening of a long holiday weekend in Minnesota.They were doing it because it adds value to someone or to civic life. It’ll take two days.

IMG_20160626_104414I saw their similar handiwork down in Fairmont last Sunday when I stopped in to the pancake breakfast sponsored by the Lions Club there. The club was also collecting eyeglasses to be cleaned up and donated where people need them.

We struggle to define what makes a great country a great country. Perhaps that’s why we “ooh” and “aah” and are filled with pride at giant American flags and fighter jets swooping over sports stadiums.

I find pride in finding people — often older people– giving up a piece of a holiday weekend to do something for the benefit of someone else. Just because it’s what they do.

Who do you know who fits that description?

  • MrE85

    My uncle who serves on an honor guard at veterans burials comes to mind. He’s busy every week, as more and more vets pass on.

    Also my mother and aunt, both longtime election judges.

  • I see a lot of Scout leaders–both Boy and Girl Scouts–who put in many hours to provide leadership and outdoor opportunities to Scouts.

  • Jack

    Hospice volunteers.

  • Several of the local craft brewers have established volunteer crews to do various projects in recent years. Most notable have been Surly Brewing with Surly Gives A Damn and Dangerous Man Brewing with Dangerous Man Volunteers. I’ve participated in both.

    We’ve done things like neighborhood cleanups, food shelf packing events, cleared buckthorn and other invasive plants in parks and on trails, painted houses, built and maintained community garden plots, and so on. Each event may only end up being an hour or three, but I see a lot of the same people at each, adding up to dozens of hours over the course of the year. I read the other day that Surly Gives A Damn volunteers have racked up 8,500 hours since it started in 2010.

  • kay smith

    Folks who foster animals for shelters and rescues. The critters need care on holiday weekends.

  • Gary F

    The Serving our Troops folks in St Paul. A group of individuals and businesses who keep MN military close to their families back home. Steak dinners served both to the families at home and overseas at the same time with a live video feed so they can eat together. They ship all the steaks and volunteers to bases in Kuwait and Iraq and rent the Rivercenter for the folks back home. Live Skype connections, music and other entertainment in addition to the meal. A great event to volunteer for. The smiles and tears really make it a great event.