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  1. #1
    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    Yep, there's some ageism there, ya think? Remember also that a lot of trail maintainers and builders are in the Redford and Newman and Nolte demographic. The majority, from what I've seen. You know, the folks who organize and do the real work of making the trail a thing.

    Whether it's trail maintenance, little league, boy scouts, food banks, or whatever there just aren't a sufficient number of younger folks to replace the older folks doing much of the work when they need to stop for health reasons (or pass away). It's an ongoing issue since at least the 1990s, nothing new in 2015. Older organizers recognize it, but there have been few if any real solutions to increase volunteerism among Gen X, Y, or Millennials. Unless there are, the future of all things that depend upon volunteers are not going to continue as-is much longer.

    (And please, I know there are younger volunteers--especially for short periods of time like multi-day work trips to do special trail projects--just not nearly enough for most of the rest of the year, or to adopt and solidly maintain sections of trail, shelters, etc. It could simply be a long-term commitment problem even though we see a fewyoung folks out there. Since many of the current aged volunteers did get started as young folks, I have to think that this is a more recent phenomenon.)

    Volunteers who are Baby Boomers and the "greatest generation" before them are literally and figuratively a dying breed not being replaced one-to-one or even close to that. That's a fact, no need to debate it. But are there any practical ideas at our cyber campfire for improving that situation?

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    Hopeful Hiker QHShowoman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post
    Volunteers who are Baby Boomers and the "greatest generation" before them are literally and figuratively a dying breed not being replaced one-to-one or even close to that. That's a fact, no need to debate it. But are there any practical ideas at our cyber campfire for improving that situation?

    I think part of the issue is that workplace demands have changed greatly over the past two decades. We work longer hours, have longer commutes and less free time. This all results in less time to volunteer. It's easier for younger folks to volunteer for shorter periods of time because they're using their paid vacation days to do so. There's a greater number of older folks volunteering because they're the ones with the time to do so -- they're retired, kids are grown, etc.

    Lots of volunteer opportunities require multiple time commitments a month -- because it's not worth it to them to train someone who may only be able to volunteer once a month. But if volunteer opportunities could be adapted in a way that would allow a person to only volunteer 1-2 times a month vs. every week, I think younger folks would be more likely to volunteer.
    you left to walk the appalachian trail
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    Registered User Professor Paul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    I think threads like this unfortunately often bring out a lot more of what you may consider intolerant opinions, even from people who are generally very supportive of the notion that introducing people to hiking and the AT, and having as many people involved, even casually, is a good thing. The AT is often called the "The People's Trail". Most folks here at WB are very supportive of that concept, especially as it was Benton MacKaye's vision that the AT provide a wilderness experience to as many people as possible. Most of us here are NOT elitist hikers who believe the trail is only for them. Most of us here are NOT even thru-hikers. Most of us here aren't long distance hiking every year and living on the trail. Most of us are just regular people who have jobs, families, and other interests - but with a passion for hiking and also protecting the AT from ABUSE.

    One of the greatest causes of trail abuse are uneducated hikers whose behavior often isn't in keeping with protecting the trail and what the greatest part of the hiking community would like to present to society. It's everything from not practicing reasonable LNT, to excessive partying, etc. And unfortunately, mass media exposure of the trail tends to increase this demographic on the trail. Sure, there are a few members here who are at times rather intolerant, but sometimes even those that seem so simply present a very narrow comment that doesn't reflect their overall opinion due to the thread context. That said, like any internet board, opinions also tend to be over-stated and rather blunt at times, compared to how the same person would present their opinion in real life. I think that is more a reflection on the nature of social media though, than it is a reflection on the vast majority of hikers and WB members.
    This all makes perfect sense. In my "real life" encounters with other hikers, the friendly attitude has been pervasive; that's why I found some of the comments here a little jarring. I recognize that the internet makes it hard to communicate as effectively as we'd like, and so everything here might not reflect the authors' full view of the situation. I also see problem behaviors as...a problem. But I also know a lot of people who like the idea of hiking more than the act; they try to give money and get to the woods maybe once or twice a year, because for whatever reason (generally extreme busyness or habit) they will never become more than casual bird-watcher sorts who stay close to their cars. I see no point in mocking them or others who actually share our goals and love of the forest. There are plenty of others out there seeking actively to destroy or undermine the wilderness and who don't in any way value the AT. Those are people who concern me, and they are the ones who deserve our antipathy.

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    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QHShowoman View Post
    I think part of the issue is that workplace demands have changed greatly over the past two decades. We work longer hours, have longer commutes and less free time. This all results in less time to volunteer. It's easier for younger folks to volunteer for shorter periods of time because they're using their paid vacation days to do so. There's a greater number of older folks volunteering because they're the ones with the time to do so -- they're retired, kids are grown, etc.
    This +10000000

    Most people in their late 20s to mid50s or so are in career mode. As you said, a job but also children and THEIR commitments on weekends.

    I suspect in about 15-20 years, you will see more Gen Xers doing volunteeer work overall as we retire and our generation's children are raising their own families/starting careers.

    I do trail work, volunteer on an outdoor board, etc..but I also don't have children. I spent three hours last night on a conference call for a volunteer organization. I was only able to do that because I left work a little early.

    Most people in the Gen X age bracket would not have the luxury: Children to take care of, a job that is not as flexible (and I can only do that once in a while!), etc.

    Of course, god knows when most people in the Gen X age bracket can retire..but that's another story.
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    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Good feedback QHShowoman, Mags.

    I think it would be more applicable to daily or weekly or at least regularly scheduled volunteering, however.

    Adopting a trail or shelter can be done on one's own schedule. It can typically be done once per month. Maybe in the Spring or during heaviest usage, an extra time that month.

    Today's seniors often have been dependable trail club volunteers since they were young. Many had jobs, school, career demands, families, etc to raise then also. In some ways, life for them in the '50s, '60s, and '70s was more difficult than for some younger people today. In some ways, life is more difficult today. The fact is that not enough younger people are raising their hands to take over trail-related volunteer positions when older people retire or die. Ask any of the 30 or so trail clubs along the AT. We've got to find ways to attract younger volunteers in larger numbers. Easy to say, but solid ideas to accomplish this are needed. I don't do social media like FB or Twitter so I can't comment with much knowledge, but is there some way to harness their power to help this along? Young people seem to live on their devices. Any other ideas?
    Last edited by Skyline; 11-24-2015 at 14:52.

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    I have been impressed by quite a few Gen Xers. They are bright, articulate and yes indeed, rarely have much free time to volunteer. We will be in good hands in a few years when the Gen Xers take up the responsibility to maintain our trails.
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    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Another thought. I know they are not volunteers (they get paid a little, and make some tips), but the young people who work the AMC huts in the Whites compete for those positions. They are thought of as a "cool" way to spend one or more summers.

    How do we make painting an AT shelter, or installing/maintaining drainage bars along a descending part of trail, or cutting grass and weeds seem "cool" enough to get them to want to do that also?

  8. #8
    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff View Post
    I have been impressed by quite a few Gen Xers. They are bright, articulate and yes indeed, rarely have much free time to volunteer. We will be in good hands in a few years when the Gen Xers take up the responsibility to maintain our trails.

    Agree. But it will be a different model, if it occurs. The current model, in which today's seniors started early in life to volunteer vs. waiting until one is retired or almost retired to start.

    Two problems with this model.

    1) There could be a gap of at least a couple decades with few if any volunteers, while the old are gone and the young are waiting to get old to start.

    2) The Gen X and beyond volunteers starting later in life will be starting with lighter experience levels and with less sense of history of the Trail, and even their place in it, than those who started when in their teens/20s/30s.

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    Hopeful Hiker QHShowoman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post
    We've got to find ways to attract younger volunteers in larger numbers. Easy to say, but solid ideas to accomplish this are needed. I don't do social media like FB or Twitter so I can't comment with much knowledge, but is there some way to harness their power to help this along? Young people seem to live on their devices. Any other ideas?
    I think social media can be helpful for getting the word out, yes, and there are entire apps that are devoted to helping organizations manage their volunteers, nowadays. A couple weekends ago, I volunteered with event set up for a charity event. I received a series of automated email messages containing everything I needed to know about my volunteer duties, as well as instructions on how to log into my volunteer profile in case I needed to change shifts, etc. It was nice to be able to manage my commitment that way and feel like I had some control.

    The other thing young people seem to like (and you can see evidence in this by how outdoor retailers are trying to get more young people outdoors) is being part of a group or community. Host a happy hour or other sort of gathering in an area that's easily accessible to young people to introduce them to the different types of trail club volunteer opportunities. Also, being able to provide free transportation to the trail (especially in urban areas where young people may not have cars), might encourage more people to volunteer -- maybe it's as simple as setting up carpools or a shuttle van from the nearest train/bus station to the trail. And if the local trail club HQ is hard to get to, then move workshops and meetings somewhere that's more accessible, and you're guaranteed to get a better turnout.
    you left to walk the appalachian trail
    you can feel your heart as smooth as a snail
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    but better to love than have something to scale


    -Girlyman, "Hold It All At Bay"

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    Hopeful Hiker QHShowoman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post
    A

    2) The Gen X and beyond volunteers starting later in life will be starting with lighter experience levels and with less sense of history of the Trail, and even their place in it, than those who started when in their teens/20s/30s.

    This should not be an obstacle. For anyone. If trail clubs want to attract volunteers, they need to be willing to train and utilize volunteers at all experience levels.

    Also, discrediting younger volunteers for their lacking a sense of history/place is exactly the kind of elitism that turns younger people off from joining established organizations. That's why you see so many new organizations/meetups/charities popping up -- younger folks are creating their own organizations where their contributions are valued.

    You don't need to have an understanding of the history of the trail to pick up trash ...or clear trails ... or paint blazes. Teach the younger generations how to work the trail on their own terms and they'll inherit the history from the more experienced folks they work with.
    you left to walk the appalachian trail
    you can feel your heart as smooth as a snail
    the mountains your darlings
    but better to love than have something to scale


    -Girlyman, "Hold It All At Bay"

  11. #11
    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QHShowoman View Post
    This should not be an obstacle. For anyone. If trail clubs want to attract volunteers, they need to be willing to train and utilize volunteers at all experience levels.

    Also, discrediting younger volunteers for their lacking a sense of history/place is exactly the kind of elitism that turns younger people off from joining established organizations. That's why you see so many new organizations/meetups/charities popping up -- younger folks are creating their own organizations where their contributions are valued.

    You don't need to have an understanding of the history of the trail to pick up trash ...or clear trails ... or paint blazes. Teach the younger generations how to work the trail on their own terms and they'll inherit the history from the more experienced folks they work with.

    All good points. And I did not mean to "sound" elitist, because I'm not.

    Trail clubs, at least those that still have good teachers, certainly train newcomers to do various tasks and handle/maintain the necessary equipment.

    By sense of history, I only meant that like anyone new, they don't come to the table (usually) with a great sense of how the Trail came to be, or how the volunteer experience has worked and is still working within the club. It's all teachable, and as generations change, the latter is changeable too. But there is a disadvantage, in my opinion, to waiting until later in life to begin that education process. Not an insurmountable disadvantage, but it exists.

    I would not assume that the contributions of younger people are undervalued by the veterans of trail clubs. Just the opposite. If young people are getting that message perhaps we all need a remedial course in giving and receiving messages.

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    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QHShowoman View Post
    The other thing young people seem to like (and you can see evidence in this by how outdoor retailers are trying to get more young people outdoors) is being part of a group or community. Host a happy hour or other sort of gathering in an area that's easily accessible to young people to introduce them to the different types of trail club volunteer opportunities. Also, being able to provide free transportation to the trail (especially in urban areas where young people may not have cars), might encourage more people to volunteer -- maybe it's as simple as setting up carpools or a shuttle van from the nearest train/bus station to the trail. And if the local trail club HQ is hard to get to, then move workshops and meetings somewhere that's more accessible, and you're guaranteed to get a better turnout.
    For special group trail projects, all of this is valid. But when you adopt a trail section or other project on an ongoing basis, it is typically a solo venture. If you're lucky, you can get a friend or two to join you once in awhile. So just make sure one of them drives!

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    Hopeful Hiker QHShowoman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post
    For special group trail projects, all of this is valid. But when you adopt a trail section or other project on an ongoing basis, it is typically a solo venture. If you're lucky, you can get a friend or two to join you once in awhile. So just make sure one of them drives!

    If you want to attract younger volunteers (i.e. millenials) to adopt sections of the trail, then you need to find a way to make it a collaborative venture. Millenials are very team-oriented and will want to work/volunteer where their friends are working, so you either need to find a way to promote this as a team effort or create sort of a "matchmaking" model where if a single volunteer wants to "hook up" with a team of trail maintainers, you can match them up with others in their area.
    you left to walk the appalachian trail
    you can feel your heart as smooth as a snail
    the mountains your darlings
    but better to love than have something to scale


    -Girlyman, "Hold It All At Bay"

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    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post
    Another thought. I know they are not volunteers (they get paid a little, and make some tips), but the young people who work the AMC huts in the Whites compete for those positions. They are thought of as a "cool" way to spend one or more summers.
    Those are few jobs..and many of the people who work those jobs tend to come from affluent families (connected ). Think of it as a lifeguard job at a beach: Similar demographic (college age) and socioeconomic background. As for trail building, weeding, etc. check out Americorps. At least out west, they do a LOT of trail work. I've worked with quite a few of them myself.

    I suspect the AT, being composed of mainly volunteer groups, does not get the non-profit, even if low paid, workers as much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post

    2) The Gen X and beyond volunteers starting later in life will be starting with lighter experience levels and with less sense of history of the Trail, and even their place in it, than those who started when in their teens/20s/30s.
    Considering it will be people like QShowwoman and myself who will be (and are..and least in my case) the volunteers, can you really say we don't have a sense of trail history?

    As an aside, many of the key people and volunteers at the CDTC are late 30s to late 40s. Myself included. I think GenX is stepping up to the plate. I suspect the Millennials will be in a similar position 20 yrs from now.

    I truly think once our generation as whole is mainly retired, the trails, parks and open space will be in good hands.

    By the way, I am enjoying this thoughtful and respectful discussion. Truly...
    Last edited by Mags; 11-24-2015 at 16:40.
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    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Started a new thread with all the previous responses...
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    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    Started a new thread with all the previous responses...
    Thanks I woulda missed wherever you plucked this from.

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    I haven't read the whole thread due to time right now (I'll come back) but had a few things to share. I do volunteer for a few organizations (Board Member/ Treasurer of a local Dog rescue and on my neighborhood finance committee). I personally think everyone should volunteer for one thing they are passionate about (as time permits). I reached out about a local shelter being built in my area offering five 25-30 year old men (5 brothers) multiple times. After over 6 months of trying (and successfully speaking with the head PATC member on the project), I gave up. Is it possible some maintainers would rather not include us younger folks? I look forward to helping more with AT maintenance in the future but unfortunately right now, I'm not able to.

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    I used to be pretty down about this too for the same reasons and observations made by the OP, but QH hit the nail on the head... unless Dogwood's cultural revolution arrives I can attest that life with kiddos is time consuming, generally requires working for money and at the very least remains a fact of life.

    After that realization, it's easy to be encouraged. While there are certainly boomers who know each other personally, and plenty of trail legends and volunteers known of through the strong word of mouth contact on the AT... that type of reach, while pretty amazing, has been massively eclipsed by facebook and social media. Hell even this site.

    My generation has folks like Allgood, Snorkel, Swami, Mags and many others already taking up positions within the community. While my generation is small compared to the boomers or millennials it's in a unique position and plenty of fine folks are stepping up to the plate. As the community is growing up and checking out new trails these folks are moving past just the AT, or the triple crown. As a whole all our nations trails have much more attention, awareness, and access.

    At first I rolled my eyes at younger people and their "Tramily", but it's no different than we've experienced face to face on the trail, just more widespread. People know each other, know other like minded folks. In general there is a lack of community across the board in our country, folks are looking for it and finding it.

    It's rare to find a 20 something who has a sense of service or giving back. It's not a natural impulse. Our job is to be selfish and make our way in the world at that time. It's only as we age, build a community, find our place in it, and perhaps raise kids of our own that we start to look to give back. To repay, protect, nurture and even to leave something behind. It's also a natural impulse as we look to the far end of our lives.

    Forgive the mild political generalization, as it applies to few here-
    The boomers as a whole tend to stand in the way of true political progress on environmental protection, energy independence, and other related "progressive" environmental issues. And even the boomers seem to be wavering on true opposition to these issues.

    Point being...
    The boomers are starting to move on, so are the lingering hold out votes.

    In the case of our little group there are many qualified folks already stepping up. Much like the workforce is seeing people of my generation step into leadership or management roles earlier than the previous generation did, you will see many strong people emerge to bridge that gap.

    The second largest generation is the millennials, who are building a huge interconnected "tramily", listening to The Trail Show, watching a Jennifer Pharr Davis on Ted and now at the ATC. Or two full generations of girls watching Jen or somebody like Anish start to enter the woods. If you're looking for bodies on the ground, these kids are already providing them. Some boomer in their facebook hiking tramily group said to volunteer, and finding a community that they like, guess what... they are doing it.

    Most importantly though, somewhere the tide will shift and votes will be cast. Political will and a much deeper sense of community will lead to a very well protected and thriving trail system. Not to mention that while Climate and Environmental issues can be dismissed by many a boomer as "not in my lifetime"... there are few of my generation and almost zero millennials who buy that line.

    I just listened to the latest trail show today. The young feller that was on talking about the north country trail was one of the most enthusiastic trail promoters I've ever heard. That kid was awesome. And he whipped out e-mails and links and journals and what sounded like enough energy to answer every one that came his way. He helped build the damn trail before and after he hiked it. All for a trail that most folks have never heard of. As the kids like to say now, he had zero "f's" to give about the hard parts, or roadwalks, or any BS. He just wanted to hike an awesome trail. Made me wanna quit my job and hike it. Guessing there's quite a few folks who can do just that and will.

    And in every state there's somebody putting up a route, doing a rails to trails conversion, hell even the Cook County Forest Preserve finally opened some campgrounds here in Chicago. There will be a lull, maybe even a bit less attention for the AT for a bit perhaps... but it all looks pretty decent to me.

    Maybe even downright encouraging.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyline View Post
    Whether it's trail maintenance, little league, boy scouts, food banks, or whatever there just aren't a sufficient number of younger folks to replace the older folks doing much of the work when they need to stop for health reasons (or pass away). It's an ongoing issue since at least the 1990s, nothing new in 2015. Older organizers recognize it, but there have been few if any real solutions to increase volunteerism among Gen X, Y, or Millennials. Unless there are, the future of all things that depend upon volunteers are not going to continue as-is much longer.

    (And please, I know there are younger volunteers--especially for short periods of time like multi-day work trips to do special trail projects--just not nearly enough for most of the rest of the year, or to adopt and solidly maintain sections of trail, shelters, etc. It could simply be a long-term commitment problem even though we see a fewyoung folks out there. Since many of the current aged volunteers did get started as young folks, I have to think that this is a more recent phenomenon.)

    Volunteers who are Baby Boomers and the "greatest generation" before them are literally and figuratively a dying breed not being replaced one-to-one or even close to that. That's a fact, no need to debate it. But are there any practical ideas at our cyber campfire for improving that situation?
    Well, I have approached it the only way I know how and it was based on what my parents did. My parents are Silent Generation folks, BTW. My Mom was a Cub Scout den leader for several years. I in turn (a Gen Xer) have been a Scout leader for about 9 years now. I plan to continue this after my boys go off to college. I think my boys have the volunteer bug, as they are always volunteering for OA (ORder of the Arrow, a Scouting society) above and beyond what others are doing. I wish that we were closer to a trail to maintain. I remember talkig to one of the other Scoutmasters about that while we were backpacking on the Pinhoti. We wished that we were close enough to do trail maintenance (he's a Gen Xer too).

    Part of the problem iss that a lot of volunteer organizations are dominated by Boomers and often aren't all that welcoming to new blood, especially us slacker Xers (as we are viewed). I've seen it many times in church activities. They complain on one hand about not having enough volunteers, but then when you do volunteer, they don't have anything for you to do--they have it covered. Takes about twice for that to happen, and I decide that I'm not really needed by that organization. I've seen it happen quite a bit.

    One possible good point for the future is that a lot of states require many high school students to volunteer, generally as part of a scholarship. There are a lot of volunteer workers out there that just aren't being tapped.
    Time is but the stream I go afishin' in.
    Thoreau

  20. #20

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    People who don't have to work (retirees and others) do most of the volunteering. It was so when I was young, when my father was young, when my grandfather was young, and on and on. I don't think differences between generations has much to do with it.

    And yes, older generations have insisted that the younger generations won't be up to snuff for all of recorded history. And they have always been wrong.
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