The concept of volunteering is something that I have only recently begun to appreciate. I was never exposed to it growing up because my parents worked for themselves and their lives were almost entirely focused on creating commerce to the exclusion of doing anything to give back to the community.

The only job my mother rather reluctantly volunteered for was being a “room mother” when I was elementary school. This was the mom who brought treats on holidays. Forget cupcakes or brownies for a class party. For some reason, the typical party food when I was growing up was open-face tuna sandwiches on white bread cut into triangles. Or if it was Valentine’s Day, cut into heart shapes. No chance of sugar-induced hyperactivity in my third grade class…life was quite Spartan growing up in Salt Lake City in the 1960s.

But I digress. As a parent, I’ve done my share of volunteering and so have most other parents. If your kids are involved in activities, it goes with the territory. We’ve worked bingo nights, gymnastics meets, beer booths at Infineon and like you, a ton of other volunteer jobs. But this isn’t volunteerism in its purest form; it’s more like a trade. I’ll do this amount of work so my child can have this kind of experience.

So when people freely volunteer their time without any expectation of getting something in return, it always amazes me. I had this experience once again on Sunday, when a fantastic group of volunteers showed up to sell tickets and pour beer at the Art & Garden Festival. Their only tangible reward is a t-shirt and a few dollars off of a tasting package. Since the event is free, it’s not like they are even getting free admission for volunteering.

So why do people volunteer? I’m sure there are a lot of different reasons. I know some like the camaraderie, some see it as a way to give back to Petaluma, and some people get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that they’ve worked hard and contributed to the success of an event.

Whatever the benefit people get from volunteering, my hope is that volunteers feel appreciated. Whether a volunteer dependably shows up to work a three hour shift at a booth or gives up their entire day to schlep ice, as clichéd as this has become, it’s true; we couldn’t put on the event without them.

So to our volunteers, you are the best. Thank you for doing an awesome job!