TODAY is budget day in Ontario and while politicians of all stripes paint themselves as heroes for knowing best how to make the province a better place, the real heroes will carry on, without pay, doing what they do every day. They are volunteers, and they make a huge difference in our communities, our province and across the country.

Thankfully, the 12.7 million Canadians who contribute are being celebrated for National Volunteer Week, which was kicked off in Thunder Bay with a flag raising ceremony at City Hall on Monday. Using an appropriate textile metaphore, Mayor Bill Mauro noted how volunteers are “very much responsible for the fabric of this community and keeping us all knitted together.”

Indeed, bringing us together may be one of the most underappreciated benefits of volunteering. The funds raised, projects built and services provided are the tangible results we can see, but communities are truly built by the process of people coming together to work — to take action on shared concerns instead of just talking about it.

We live in an age when many consider themselves activists for clicking a “like” button or ranting about why everyone else is ruining the world. We can ease our social conscience with a checkout charity donation of a couple bucks to a cause we don’t really know anything about.

Volunteers turn off their screens, get off their butts and do something.

They are there in the worst of times and best of times. Their efforts can be seen in everything from helping at shelters and food banks or searches for missing people to fundraising events to fight diseases and improve treatments to sporting events and festivals that build community spirit.

The range of ways volunteers help also reminds us that there’s no shortage of options for those who want to join in and make a difference.

“I think it’s important to volunteer because it gives you a chance to create the community you want to be, set that example,” noted Donna Jeanpierre, president of the Thunder Bay Association of Volunteer Administrators, at Monday’s flag raising event.

As mentioned, today’s unveiling of the Ontario government’s budget will remind us of all the important things governments do and the various opinions on how big of a role government should play. We’ll also get opinions on who should get what pieces of the pie, suggestions for taxation targets, and debate on how much of the bill we’ll leave to our kids and grandkids.

All the while, we each have the option to use our time and our hands to make our communities what we want them to be — with or without government help. That’s what volunteers do. Their immeasurable contributions of impactful work is generously granted. But let’s never take it for granted.

(Originally published April 11, 2019)

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