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News Story
Updated: 03/10/2013 08:02:24AM

Winter residents really help community

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The calls have already started. Every day more and more of our part-time residents call to let us know it’s time to put their paper on hold for the summer. So before everyone heads north, we wanted to take the time to say Thank you to all the winter residents who make our community a better place to live.

It’s easy to see the economic benefit of our winter residents — just go shopping or out to dinner — but let’s not forget what else they bring to our community. Our part-time residents tirelessly give of their time and effort. They volunteer at area organizations, area hospitals, assisted living facilities and other places that need their help.

We regularly receive pictures of volunteers who have donated many hours of their time to make someone’s life just a little bit better.

These folks come from backgrounds as diverse as the causes they’ve chosen to champion. Many live elsewhere for most of the year. Yet, when they are here they devote a lot of time and energy to making our part of Polk County a better place for everyone to live.

We need to let them know how much they are appreciated. So as the temperature rises and our population falls, we encourage everyone to say Thank You to a winter resident.

Without their contributions Polk County would be a much different place.

But there’s a downside. Most of the organizations they help are in need all year, not just the few months our winter guests are here. So who’s going to step up when they step away? Sadly, their shoes may be hard to fill. According to the non-profit Corporation for National and Community Service, people in Florida aren’t much for volunteering. Between 2008 and 2010 only 21.3 percent of Floridians did any volunteer work, ranking us among the bottom. Only Nevada and New York had worse showings. We ranked a little better in the hours we spend volunteering with 31.5 hours per person, ranking us 37th in hours worked.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Volunteering may not come with a pay check, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in it for you. If you lost your job or your home, volunteering to drive some nails for Habitat for Humanity or helping to deliver food for Meals on Wheels might be the farthest thing from your mind, but it shouldn’t be. Helping others can put your own life into perspective. And it’s a great networking opportunity and doesn’t look bad on a resume. No one ever walked away from a day of volunteering feeling regret for the way they spent the last few hours.

We always hear, “You only get out of it what you put into it,” but that doesn’t apply when it comes to giving your time to a worthy cause. You get much more, and the best way to thank our part-time neighbors is to keep up their good work while they’re away.