Growth. It’s a beautiful thing, and right now Janesville is like a teenager who just reached puberty—it’s in a major growth spurt. New employers, new employees and new amenities are popping up everywhere. Even the old venues seem new again. Life is good, right?

Unfortunately, growth is taking a bit of a toll on the fabric of what makes Janesville tick—volunteerism. Hours are down, service clubs are shrinking and even the “Grumpies,” our wonderful Rotary Gardens volunteers, aren’t as grumpy. Those festivals downtown that we all enjoy? They don’t happen without the ones who do it for love and not the paycheck. Folks, the “help wanted” sign is out, and some may say it’s “help needed.” We all need to apply to volunteer.

As someone who’s spent close to 50 years in Janesville, I’ve seen the ebbs and flow of volunteering, and I’ve assisted where I can, but it’s tough. I get it. It seems like our lives are busier than ever. Commitments are 24/7, and there are times when you want to relax and take a break. The last thing you want to do is fill that time.

I took a different view this year, and I urge my neighbors to think different. I took a look at my community, found a need and jumped in. My investment was minimal. It was time. Sure, it was time that could have been spent doing just about anything else or nothing at all. I looked past that potential idle time and saw a positive outcome. The wins were for the organizations that needed help. The result for me was cultivating new friendships that will live much longer than a few hours spent volunteering.

While the signs for help in our community are out, I urge you to take your time and find your lane. Some look to volunteering to feed the soul. Others volunteer to fulfill a time commitment for graduation or simply lend a hand because they see a need in our community. No matter the reason, it’s time to apply. Our volunteer-centric organizations are depending on you.

New residents, take an opportunity to reach out and learn about your new community. It’s a great place to live. Lifelong residents, even if you’ve volunteered a million hours in Janesville, it’s time to meet your new neighbors. I guarantee you’ll fulfill whatever drives you, and I’m 100% certain you’ll find a new group and cultivate your own new relationships.

My hope is I don’t receive a last minute email or Facebook post pleading for volunteers at (insert event) in 2020. Let’s make it difficult for community events, nonprofits or churches to pick the volunteers rather than beg. Find your lane, find your purpose and enjoy the growth from view of the volunteer. It’s the most fulfilling time you’ll spend in Janesville.

Steve Knox lives in Janesville. He also writes a blog, Gen-X in J-Ville, about community issues for GazetteXtra.com.

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