Volunteer day 

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Last week, I covered events for two key arts organizations in Whistler — the annual general meeting (AGM) for The Whistler Writing Society (WWS), and the Summer Celebration Countdown for the Whistler Film Festival (WFF).

At the AGM, the writing society's executive director, Stella Harvey, described a very eventful year for the Whistler Writers Festival (WWF).

There was the creation of a Spring Reading Series, which brought celebrated memoirists and historical fiction writers to the resort in May and June.

As well, the WWS' Authors in Schools program — which brings writers to Sea to Sky schools for readings and to build connections with students — was expanded, reaching more children than ever.

And after a year of charitable status, WWS and the festival was in good financial health, forging connections with new funders, including becoming a chosen charity for this fall's Cornucopia fundraising program.

There was one other thing worth noting, Harvey said at the AGM — every single person who helps in the running of the WWF and other WWS programing is a volunteer, from Harvey and her deputy Rebecca Wood Barrett, to the one-day volunteers guiding visitors to workshops and readings.

Hold that thought.

At the film festival's Summer Celebration Countdown in Vancouver, WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw and Angie Nolan, director of industry programming, honoured long-time supporters — Actor Aleks Paunovic, producers Christine Haebler and Trish Dolman, Michelle Ouellette, Reunion Pictures owner Tom Rowe, and producers Cynde and Allan Harmon.Turnout from the B.C. film community was very good, and included those taking part in this year's professional training programs already underway by WFF, including the Praxis Screenwriters Lab and producers in the Feature Project Lab. But along with these luminaries and film industry hopefuls, a shout-out was given to the many volunteers who sell tickets, support filmgoers and help WFF throughout the year.

A month doesn't go by in this arts and culture editor job without my being confronted with a self-evident truth about Whistler — this resort would fail on many levels without its fantastic army of volunteers.

The Audain Art Museum is a better experience for its visitors thanks to the art-loving docents, volunteers who take them on tours, answer questions about the collection, and guide them where they need to go.

And Arts Whistler events, whether performances, exhibitions, festivals, or classes, also take place thanks to the input of volunteers.

It's not just the arts that benefits, of course, and it's not just charities or non-profits — many for-profit ventures also operate on volunteer energy.

This summer, Ironman, Crankworx, Tough Mudder, Wanderlust and other essential Whistler sporting events and festivals welcomed tens of thousands, thanks to the energy and knowledge of passionate people who give their time for free.

Village Hosts and our trail builders are volunteers. Our social services benefit from volunteers both within organizations such as the Whistler Community Services Society, and on the other side, those Whistler employees volunteering time to fundraise and help out.

According to Statistics Canada, there is a correlation between age and volunteerism. In 2013, teens aged 15 to 19 were, by far, the most likely to do voluntary work, at an impressive 66 per cent. This is unchanged from 2010.

Young middle-aged adults follow this, at 48 per cent.

Seniors, in comparison, make up a smaller group of volunteers, but give up the most amount of time, with those aged 65 to 74 donating roughly 231 hours each per annum in 2013, compared to 110 hours per annum for 15 to 19 year olds.

So the spread of volunteers covers the full range of residents.

Where they can, Whistler's organizations and events give something back to their volunteers in the form of passes and tickets, or products.

But when it's clear that every day is a day when Whistler uses volunteers to survive, I'd like to see a resort-wide celebration that honours this.

A day each season should be given over to our volunteers to thank them — with food, drink, entertainment and chances for volunteers to find out more about the good work done all over the resort by others like them.

I haven't worked out the system for putting on such an event, but I would be happy to be part of a committee to shape it. I'd volunteer, even.

The Community Foundation of Whistler sends out a regular newsletter of volunteering opportunities in the community — head to www.whistlerfoundation.com to sign up.

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