It was a dreary fall afternoon this past Sunday at Argyle, as rain lashed the countryside and soaked stubble fields.
Inside the local community hall and curling rink, however, there was a clear sense of warmth and community.
The hamlet had pulled out all the stops to host its annual fall supper — the 135th iteration of the annual event — and it was a textbook case of a community pulling together for a common cause. Vehicles packed the parking lot and lined the highway leading through town.
Down at the community hall, the cooks were cranking out a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixings and filling both takeout orders and thermal boxes that were efficiently transported down to the curling rink, where locals and visitors alike piled in for the fall feast.
At the curling rink itself, the volunteer force drew everyone from kids in their early teens to retirees as they served up pie, poured coffee, tea and juice and just generally made a smoothly operating machine out of what could have just as easily slid into chaos as a first-come, first-served event. But with everyone pulling together the lines moved quickly, tables were seated, served and cleared with good humour and grace.
The sight caused a bit of reflection on the nature of volunteerism in a smaller centre and the unique dedication it takes. That’s not to say there isn’t a similar commitment in larger towns and cities like Winnipeg — but as a part of the function of the larger population base, those efforts are generally more specialized.
Small groups of like-minded citizens who care deeply about an issue such as feeding hungry kids a nutritious breakfast at school or helping the city’s homeless population navigate another frigid winter band together and do great service to their communities too. But those efforts tend to draw on a limited pool of volunteers from a much larger population base.
The sort of all-hands-on-deck efforts seen in small towns is rarer, confined generally to something such as a spring flood that draws volunteer sandbaggers rallying to help strangers.
In the smaller centres of Manitoba however, there isn’t the luxury of that larger pool of helping hands and it’s frequently the same group of community-minded volunteers that pull together again and again. These are the helping hands that keep hockey and curling rinks operating, the local museum open and the like. Without them these communities would struggle to be true communities, and their efforts daily weave the social fabric of rural Manitoba.
One can only hope this proud tradition continues throughout the province in the coming decades, giving us all, country folk and city dweller alike, the occasional opportunity to experience it and even lend our own helping hands.
By doing so we build and support communities.