The Spirit of Giving One’s Time

The Spirit of Giving One’s Time
By Bria Stokesbury

Ask any non-profit organization what their volunteers mean to them and you will likely hear similar answers. Without an unpaid workforce it might be hard to operate, if not darn near impossible. It isn’t just non-profits that rely on volunteers. Almost all aspects of Canadian society are impacted by the work of thousands and thousands of hardworking selfless individuals who show up day and night, fair or foul weather, to make sure the work gets done.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our cultural and heritage organizations. I should know, I’ve worked with hundreds of them over the years at the Kings County Museum in Kentville. Our story is the story of any museum or cultural institution in Nova Scotia and since this is the season of giving, I thought it would be appropriate to thank all of the volunteers who give not just at the holidays but year round to ensure that so many worthwhile societies, events, fundraisers, programs, sports, and a truly endless list of things that enrich our society and add meaning to our lives, can continue.

How do you pick one story to share amongst so many wonderful ones? I’ve chosen this particular story because the hard work of this young man represents so many of our volunteers who labor away in solitude accomplishing seemingly mammoth tasks everyday without public awareness or publicity. This is not why they do their work, and that makes their accomplishments even more impressive and laudable.

Nathan Spinney has volunteered with the Kings Historical Society for over a decade. He informs me that at just under the age of 30, he is still young. He can take apart and build computers, is fascinated by Japanese culture (enough so to have bestowed Japanese names on two of his beloved cats), and he is a Star Wars movie buff. He is also one of the fastest typists you will ever meet. When Nathan first started to volunteer at the museum there was a huge need to create large databases full of vital statistical information on families in Kings County for visiting researchers, and with his ability to type this became the perfect volunteer job for Nathan.

When the museum closes for the winter season on December 13, Nathan will finish a project that he has been steadily working away on every Tuesday and Thursday for almost 5 years. Housed in the archives of the museum is a collection of 182 binders of newspaper articles on vital statistics for Nova Scotian families accumulated from the 1950s up to roughly 1980 by two sisters, Alice Darres and Marion MacCormick, formerly of Annapolis County. Nathan has been indexing the family names in all 182 binders and typing them into a database so that researchers at the museum will have easy access to information about their families. He is 1/3 of the way through binder 182, the last one in the collection.

Nathan doesn’t know the people that come to the museum to research, and they may never meet him, but because of his work they will find a user-friendly database that will provide more accessibility to their family information. As the year draws to a close, and a long-time project nears completion, one more volunteer is thanked for his dedication to getting the job done. One volunteer, one massive project completed, and two words that never seem big enough to convey the gratitude of our organization for people like Nathan and the work they do: Thank you.

Photo: “Kings Historical Society member Wayne Baltzer (left) meets with Nathan Spinney (right) in the room in which Nathan types away on his volunteer project for the Kings County Museum.