Slice of Life

Without volunteers, what would we do?

ktanner@thetribunenews.comAugust 22, 2013 

On the first Monday of every September, we celebrate the achievements of U.S. workers, be they ditch diggers or company presidents, teachers, stagehands, artists, factory workers, secretaries or accountants.

But there are some often unsung-hero workers that really must be included in those honoring ceremonies: The All-American volunteer.

Our local volunteers are being honored this Labor Day weekend, and about time, too. The theme for the three-day, 2013 Pinedorado celebration is “Roar into Tomorrow: Volunteer, Make it Happen!”

According to, in 2011, 64.3 million Americans volunteered a total of nearly 8 billion hours at an estimated economic value of roughly $171 billion.

The stats shouldn’t surprise North Coast residents: Nearly everybody here volunteers somewhere, somehow to do something for free.

People donate time to help children, seniors, visitors, animals, the arts, the environment. … You name it, there’s probably a charity, group or nonprofit here that works for free to help make things better.

Some of those groups and volunteers band together for fundraising events, most of which happen only once a year. But that doesn’t mean the unpaid workers can lounge around in their La-Z-Boys the other 11 months, no sir. Putting on big-splash North Coast happenings requires organization, planning, hand labor and strong backs year round.

Volunteering is good for the community … and very good for the volunteer.

Youngsters who donate time can receive extra credit at school. According to longtime middle school teacher Mark Kniffen, now retired, many of those kids get hooked on the concept of helping their community and continue to do so later without seeking credit or recognition.

Volunteering also can provide a big boost later in life. Parents can form lifelong friendships in a Boosters’ booth, sewing costumes for a recital, on sports sidelines, working in the library or helping put on the high school/community musical every spring.

Members of church, service and other groups form comradeship bonds that can help them in their work and at home.

When careers wind down, active adults want to stay involved while expanding their social circles.

Andy Zinn, president of the Cambria Lions Club, estimates that, to take the Labor Day weekend Pinedorado celebration from concept to closing bell requires the hard work and dedication of more than 800 volunteers.

Those hardy souls — many, but not all of them, Lions members — paint and rehearse, barbecue, sell tickets, move heavy furniture and scene flats, organize performers, man game booths and shepherd classic-car owners. They sweep, clean, patrol, shuck and cook case after case of corn, bake waffles, trim strawberries and do all the tasks that make up the whole that is Pinedorado.

Ask each one what he or she does, and they’re likely to demur, saying they’re just doing what they can to help, and that others deserve more credit.

Former county Supervisor Shirley Bianchi disagrees with that modesty. “Don’t ever say ‘all I do is volunteer work.’ When you volunteer, you have to know a little bit about a lot of things, and be good at what you do. That’s knowledge you can take to the bank.

“The experience I got as a volunteer was absolutely vital when I became county supervisor. Volunteering taught me how to make things happen, and that knowledge held me in good stead all those years on the board.

“Volunteers learn to work together amicably to get things done, even when they don’t necessarily agree with each other.

“It’s the same on the county board. As one supervisor, you can’t accomplish anything on your own. To get anything done at the county level, you have to convince at least two other supervisors that your idea is absolutely brilliant. Plus, you have to have the support of your staff. You have to convince staff that you understand and appreciate what they do. I’d tell them, ‘It’s your job, you do it, but you’re not alone.’ They knew that I was there for them.”

So, why do the Pinedorado volunteers donate all those hours? If pushed, they’ll tell you the money raised stays in Cambria to help in so many ways, from funds that sponsor Lions Club efforts to the stipends paid to nonprofit clubs whose members man booths through the weekend.

But there’s another reason: Those 800 people know they’re helping to create memories, the kind that bring people back to Cambria year after year so their children and grandchildren can enjoy the kind of fun their parents and grandparents had at the 64-year-old festivity.

So this Labor Day and every day, we salute you, North Coast volunteers, especially those of you on the Pinedorado team. Cambria wouldn’t be Cambria without you.

Editor’s note: What’s your favorite Pinedorado memory? Please send it to!

Kathe Tanner is a reporter for The Cambrian and The Tribune. Her “Slice of Life” column appears biweekly. Email her at and follow her on Twitter Copyright 2014 The_Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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