You’ve seen them wandering up the street waving buckets or urging you to spare a few coins in exchange for a sticker. They’re staffing the barricades on parade night or pressing you for a donation in exchange for a red ribbon. When summertime hits, you can bet dollars to donuts that you’ll run into one cause or another.

For many, volunteering is its own reward and the hundreds of people who volunteer for community organisations do so without any expectation of payment. They’re simply out there because they know that what they’re doing doesn’t cost much -“ apart from time -“ and will help someone in desperate need.

Organisations like People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) want to do their little bit for their volunteers; PLWHA wants to give something back and add that little bit extra to the volunteering experience. If anything, it may make those precious volunteers return next year.

Antony Nicholas, PLWHA CEO, sums the situation up perfectly: I don’t think people expect it, he says, but lots of times, we want to say that we really appreciate what you have done. That’s why it’s nice to do something -“ even something small -“ for our volunteers.

Nicholas is the first to admit that PLWHA do not have the wherewithal to put on something off their own bat as their funds simply do not run to those contingencies. If the Taxi Club hadn’t come forward and offered us the use of the club, we would have had to find another way to say -˜thank you’, he explains. The whole point is that people do give their time and energy for whatever reason, but we think it’s really important. A lot of people help on just one day a year, but even that is fantastic for us and for the people PLWHA then help.

PLWHA volunteers work at the Mardi Gras launch, fair day, the reception desk, in office support and many other areas. I think volunteering should be its own reward, Nicholas said, and people have said, after volunteering, that they can’t believe how exhilarating it is to do. But I also think it’s important we demonstrate our thanks. PLWHA’s thank-you party is on Tuesday 9 April at the Taxi Club.

The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation has perhaps the most visible volunteer contingent, and has worked tirelessly since the mid-1980s to garner much-needed funds for the men, women and children on its roster who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Shop Yourself Stupid and the pre-parade sticker selling at Mardi Gras are BGF’s flagship events, and the ones which are the most visible ways for the foundation to assist the people on its books.

BGF also believes in thanking its volunteers, and reserves a special viewing area on the parade route for those who have spent the previous hours stickering the crowd.

Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras volunteers have a number of inducements attached to their participation. Not the least of these is the half-price party ticket available to those who volunteer to be a parade official or party marshal, or to work a pre-set number of hours at the Mardi Gras office or workshop. Apart from that, though, we think that our volunteers do participate because of the event itself, not because of the half-price ticket, explains Kelly Gardiner, Mardi Gras CEO. And we do have a -˜thank you’ get-together planned because without those volunteers -“ at every level of the organisation -“ we wouldn’t exist.

Gardiner told the Star that Mardi Gras will host a big thank-you party to show its thousands of volunteers just how much it appreciates them. We also have the Mardi Gras Awards which will be held at the Seymour Centre, Gardiner says. At the Awards, we acknowledge specific people -“ such as parade participants and long-term volunteers -“ because again, they are the ones who really make Mardi Gras what it is. Dates are expected to be announced shortly for the Awards and thank-you party.

So while volunteering may be its own reward, many of our community groups are obviously more than happy to give something back to the hundreds of volunteers who ostensibly work for nothing more than the knowledge that they are doing the right thing.

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