Volunteers make the world go ’round, at least in Lebanon

We live in a world scarred by the COVID-19 experience, and it’s taken some time for things to get back to “normal.”
Not that “normal” is really definable, because we don’t think it would be unfeeling or overly pessimistic to acknowledge that we may never regain the “full-speed-ahead” enthusiasm that many were feeling at the start of 2020.
Our nation has experienced plenty of other life-changing single events that have inflicted collective trauma – the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks being one prime example for many of us. We can likely all fill in blanks on others: the Pearl Harbor attack, the Great Depression, slavery, the Trail of Tears, assassinations, wars, the Holocaust, etc. These are events that have left traumatic residue for Americans.
Enough of that, except to add that we appreciate the resiliency that we see in the Lebanon community as we move on from 2020, a year that included a global pandemic unlike any since 1918, an economic collapse unlike any since 1933, civil unrest unlike any since 1968, and the greatest unexpected loss of life since 9/11.
One evidence is the return of community activities, which we can gauge by the number of items listed in our Around Town section, which seeks to make you, the reader, aware of events of local interest.
Frankly speaking, that section wasn’t exactly hopping until the beginning of this year, when we saw the flow of emails and other heads-up alerts beginning to pick up. Really, we can say that it’s back to about the level it was in February of 2020, right before we got the news that our world was shutting down.
Another example of local rebound is the Strawberry Festival, which was back in full swing last year and returns again in the first weekend of June.
Still another is the Fourth of July Star Spangled Celebration, which was also a victim, of sorts, of COVID.
The event was hosted for 16 years by the Lebanon Community Foundation, which stepped away in 2019. More on that in a moment. The Lebanon Strawberry Festival Board took the reins, but the following year’s COVID-19 pandemic curtailed festivities to a fireworks show over Cheadle Lake viewable from a side street. Obviously, that didn’t offer the amenities of Cheadle Lake Park, and it didn’t include the games and booths offered by local organizations and businesses. It certainly wasn’t the same, though the effort was certainly commendable.
The fact that there even was a show is a credit to the Strawberry folks, but they weren’t in a position to keep it going and, as we report on page 1, local insurance agent Jamie Eriksen has agreed to take the helm to get this year’s show into the air. The community should appreciate that and should demonstrate it by stepping up to help get this thing off the ground.
And that brings up a central point relating to community events: They don’t just happen. Parades, festivals, car shows, downtown events, chamber awards banquets, egg hunts, vacation Bible schools – these and many more are usually the result of, maybe, limited paid staff but mostly volunteer effort.
That’s true of the fireworks show. It’s going to be the result of people who get off their behinds, who pull themselves away from their favorite video game or their cellphone screen, to help set up, clean up, staff a booth, direct parking, be a smiling face, etc.
The Strawberry Association is just one of many organizations that are suffering locally from a shortage of volunteers. Part of the reason is that many stalwart, longtime contributors are no longer young and the next generation hasn’t stepped up to the same level.
Is it COVID hangover? Is it excessive focus on individual interests? Is it social apathy?
Our purpose here is not to answer that question, because we really can’t. But what we can do is step up. We commend those who have.