That Volunteerism Thing

In Montclair, it impresses me how people want to volunteer these days – by helping others learn, improving our surroundings, and even contributing their own sweat equity.  There have always been good works, but there’s also an increased willingness to show up.

As a boomer, I was a babe when President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address asking Americans to “do for your country.”  Looking back at the ’60s and ’70s, we know that many citizens took his declarations to heart and contributed to the common good.  Then Americans shifted their priorities, with “me generations” ruling the roosts for a while.

During the ’10s, we might be experiencing a new groundswell of altruism.  Every time we look around, there seems to be another Oakland group catching this wave.  Here are only a few examples:

  • Sweat equityBeaconsfield Canyon is an open space owned by the City of Oakland.  Clean-ups began with a few neighbors pruning monthly.  There are so many volunteers expected this weekend that Friends of Sausal Creek has put out an all-points call for leaders.
  • People powerWalk Oakland Bike Oakland is an advocacy group that seeks to improve walking and biking around the city.  They embrace volunteers, and have many campaigns underway.  And now they’ve hired their very-first executive director to keep things moving along.
  • Local trailsTrail conditions were a problem this year, especially as park rangers were cut from the Oakland budget.  The Friends of Montclair Railroad Trail was created between neighbors and the city – and it has begun working on the trail, vandalism, bike use and even dogs-on-leash issues there.
  • Citizen advocacyMake Oakland Better Now! is composed of volunteers who decided to tackle and learn about Oakland budgeting travails, and has engaged with the police chief and budget director to share the difficulties.  Their immediate aim is to “be heard” by City Hall.
  • Greening homesGreening Oakland Homes has just come together to help homeowners reduce their carbon footprints.  They are surveying neighbors about green priorities.  And they’re organizing their first fair in Montclair, where hand-picked suppliers will share what to do and how to finance it.
  • Volunteer action After Obama’s election, a group of local supporters decided to harness their energy into local volunteerism:  the Montclair Community Action Group.  They ran a successful Oakland-wide school volunteer fair, and other important energy and health initiatives are in the works.

We should mention the two safety groups which have been around longer, like Montclair Safety & Improvement Council and North Hills Neighborhood Council.  And more hyper-local groups also get out there and make Montclair a better place to live.

In our more modest times, it’s nice to see volunteerism growing slowly but surely.  There’s no reason (excuse) not to carve out a little time – and share your expertise and energy to improve our city.

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