This summer, I came down with a case of volunteer- itis. I was first infected in 2010, when Elizabeth Hanson, Yukon NDP leader and MLA for Whitehorse Centre, knocked at my door, canvassing voters during the run-up to a December by-election. When the subject of arts funding arose, Hanson flipped the script on the traditional candidate- voter interface and shared how I could play a role in advocating for the arts.
Two days later, Hanson introduced me to the Friends of the Gallery (FOG), a supporting organization of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection. Soon, I wasn’t just a FOG member, but part of its board, sort through submissions for the collection and agonizing over which artworks and artists best represented the territory.
Around the same time, coffee with a friend in Dawson turned into a tagalong to a meeting of the Dawson City International Short Film Fest's organizing committee. Despite knowing little about film, I found myself offering my time to the event--the enthusiasm of the committee members was catching.
In both instances, I got far more from volunteering than I put in. The anguish I experienced evaluating works for the Permanent Art Collection was nothing after seeing a young artist learn his submission had been selected. At the film fest, when my name was accidentally drawn for an audience prize, I wasn’t disappointed, but elated to be ineligible due to my involvement with the event. As it happens, the only thing better than winning a draw is winning it and then handing the prize to someone else.
Shortly after moving to Dawson this spring, my volunteer-itis became full-blown. I'd love to blame my innate selflessness, but the truth is that small towns run on volunteers--if you want your town to thrive, you have to make it happen. Add the fact that volunteer-itis is highly contagious--one person can infect dozens of friends, family, and co workers--and it's no wonder I spent my summer raising my hand for one job or another.
Compared to many Yukoners, my volunteer-itis is mild. Sure, I may have agreed to face-paint children at the Dawson City Music Festival when the very idea terrified me (Spiderman is a tall order!), and I’ve found myself rising early on weekends when I desperately needed sleep, but overall I’ve done the bare minimum.