When people scheduled this year’s Race for the Cure and the work day at Seton’s playground, they probably figured mid-May would be safe. Sure, it rains occasionally, but it’s at least warm by then. Right?
The laughter you’re hearing right now is, we suspect, coming from Mother Nature herself. This year has been anything but normal.
What we’re not surprised at is that the chilly, wet weather didn’t put a damper on either event. People turned out for the race. The playground still got the work done. People said they would be there, and they followed through.
The more remarkable thing, when you think about it, is just how little this surprises anyone. Our community can almost always count on volunteers. They are, to a remarkable degree, the key to many of the events that make this area special.
It’s hard to think of a major event in southeast Iowa that doesn’t depend heavily on volunteers. Even the ones that have a professional staff setting up the event’s framework rely on volunteers to help pull the details together. And Ottumwa does that time after time.
It’s this that the complainers and the whiners so often miss. Ottumwa is a dying community, they say. There’s nothing to do and no reason to stay. But time and again an honest look around proves that view wrong.
Dying communities don’t have the kind of volunteer base Ottumwa has. More to the point, they don’t have the kind of volunteer opportunities we do. No, Ottumwa may not have as much happening on a given day as communities 10 times our size, but it’s a genuinely rare day when we have a difficult time finding enough happening to fill our pages.
The effects of those volunteers are felt well beyond Ottumwa. The Race for the Cure will help fund research, but it also has an effect just in the show of support for breast cancer patients and survivors. There is value in that.
It may be a bit harder to quantify the effects for the students at Seton who will enjoy the new playground renovations. After all, who knows where they will wind up in the coming decades or what they will be doing. But it’s clear such efforts make a difference to them today.
We were glad to be able to meet with the people who helped make those events a success, people who had enough confidence in their community to help. It’s not just this time of year, either. It’s the community meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the scores of fundraisers large and small. Youth sports. Plantings, hikes and all the other events that volunteers help make happen.
All of those events are a vote of confidence in our community and the people who live here. As long as those continue, the people who claim this is a dying community will continue to be proven wrong.