Several events last week served as poignant reminders about the value of volunteerism in our community. I saw multiple examples of people offering their time and talents for different causes, and large numbers of Shakopee residents are benefiting from it.

For example, last Wednesday, a lot of people volunteered to make Rhythm on the Rails a success. I’m sure a lot of volunteer time also went into planning and prepping the event before it officially kicked off. The first day of the concert series was certainly a lot of fun and from what I saw, ran smoothly. It’s great to have free events that bring us together for first-rate music, food and socializing.

Also last week and again this week, people volunteered to paint interior walls and ceilings at the Shakopee West Junior High School. My friend John Bain put out the word on social media, asking for volunteers to help. The church he belongs to spearheaded the effort, and more than a dozen people answered the call to give the school a fresh coat of paint.

“The schools serve us in so many ways that I want to do something to help the schools,” Bain told me on Sunday when he was painting one of the hallways. “It’s important for me to give something back to the schools that help our kids in so many ways.”

I also see volunteers on the fields at Tahpah Park and the 17th Avenue Sports Complex on almost any given night of the week at this time of the year. They’re coaching kids. Youth sports programs are typically run by volunteers, and it takes a lot of people to step up and offer their time to coach, manage teams, fit kids with gear or uniforms, put together schedules, and do everything else needed to run a youth sports program.

For those who volunteer, the experience can be incredibly rewarding. I’ve been volunteering in some capacity since college. Back then, I didn’t have money to donate to causes I supported, so I offered my time instead. I’ve been doing it ever since. Over the years, I’ve interacted with hundreds of volunteers. I’ve never met anyone who regretted their volunteer work.

My favorite volunteer work was the dozen or so years I got to coach in the Shakopee youth football program. I have treasured memories of being on the field and sidelines with the players. Many of those players, who are currently in high school or have already graduated, now tower over me. It’s always enjoyable to bump into them around town and hear how they’re doing. I feel a sense of pride when they share their latest successes. Other volunteer coaches tell me the same thing — we’re huge supporters of the kids we were fortunate enough to coach, and that support never wanes.

Minnesotans are known for our volunteering. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Minnesota ranks second in volunteerism among all states. In 2018, more than 1.9 million Minnesotans contributed 137.2 million hours of service. The volunteer service was worth an estimated $3.3 billion.

There are many ways to advance causes, improve lives, and provide positive experiences for kids and others in our community. One sure way is to volunteer. It’s time well spent.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

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