Who will step up?

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By Peter Milsom

Over the past eighteen months, the Kemptville Branch of the Navy League of Canada, which hosts a truly superb program for the development and enjoyment of your children from 9 years of age up to 18 years of age, has posted twenty-six articles, courtesy of the public-spirited Times that feature the cadets, officers and events of the Cadet Program. 

The articles have extolled the impressive benefits of the national naval Cadet Program for the thousands of young people seeking new experiences and challenges to help them to grow, gain confidence, learn to lead and be self-sufficient and appreciate the joy and the responsibility of giving back to their community. Every article, in one way or another, has sought support participation and engagement of its treasured community’s adults – the adults of the community our young people live and grow up in.

Over the eighteen months, the articles, a number of which were written by one of our own remarkable 15-year-old cadets in her second language, have regrettably elicited not one single response from the community, except for a few kind-hearted financial donors. Please understand, I am not being accusatory! After all, this situation is not unique to our community. Volunteering is at an all-time low in Canada and, indeed, across North America, and all not-for-profit organizations in Canada are suffering badly. 

Do we blame COVID – yes, of course, with reason, as our lives have been cloistered by a multi-faceted, often contradictory, and confusing set of mandates, which make the average, independent, free-thinking Canadian foam at the mouth. But what have we allowed COVID to do to us? Have we become so tucked away, insular and comfy in our cave, have we become so enamoured with reality TV, that we can’t break free for a few hours, are we so apprehensive with the doomsday rantings of the pharmaceutical companies, who, incidentally, have created thirteen new billionaires during COVID, that we can’t break into the light of day – or back to real, participatory community living?  

This living, growing, vibrant community has, with the guidance of an adaptive and engaged North Grenville Municipal Council, been hugely responsive to the challenges of this pandemic. Indeed, folks, we have been the highest inoculated region in Canada for months. That, really, says it all! Relatively new to the area, Carol and I live in a community where people know and like their neighbours, pitch in to help each other. We know our neighbours’ names and enjoy chatting with them. This is not big city! This is Kemptville, a farming and agricultural centre of old, where people’s values are practiced and are, thankfully, still treasured.  

This is my fifth year presiding over this incredibly rewarding Navy League Branch, working in equal partnership with some dedicated, no, truly devoted officers, who have routinely and unremittingly given, not just a few hours a month, but 20+ hours a week for their cadets. Every one of these volunteer officers have families, other real world, senior job commitments, and deal with high level compelling professional or technical career demands on their time and energies – and on their family time! That is meaningful volunteering! Some of that is also going on at the Kemptville Youth Centre and with youth sports.

The Corps officers need volunteers to support them. And speaking of supporting volunteers, our Board of Directors and Executive – a university lecturer, a charitable foundation board chairperson, company owners, parents, professional and serving and retired military people – are all busy people, but all are prepared to offer time and experience for a few hours each month, with no other objective than to do good things for our young people. They can’t, however, be expected to do this forever and ever. Lives change, careers change, jobs change, families change, health changes, and, as these wonderful volunteers move on, if the community values the youth program, community members have to step up and pitch in. If they don’t, the youth program dies!

As our articles have demonstrated, the naval Cadet Program in Kemptville teaches young people new and useful skills, the value of the individual and of the team, the development of self-confidence, the value of honesty and integrity in relationships, and the importance of good fellowship and strong, capable leadership. Reading the articles, we hope, are the vast array of young parents, the grandparents, the veterans whose insignia, and licence plates we see daily, and a growing population of retirees. Who can we count on from this huge collection of talent, knowledge, and experience to step up – to volunteer just a small portion of their spare time? NOTE: Our excellent Mayor Peckford and Councillors O’Sullivan and Strackerjan have all pitched in to help with our Cadet Merit Review Boards. And they are very busy people!

We are living in turbulent times, and are witnessing both good and bad leadership in the world. Strong leadership is not the sole purview of the military – it must reside equally in the decisions and practices of our civilian corporate, social, and political leaders. There are times when we all need the example of inspired, informed leadership. And ladies and gentlemen, good leadership for life can start by the inculcation of lesson, example, and experience – all learned, personally and with confidence, as a developing young person in the Cadet Program of the Navy League of Canada, and right here in your own Kemptville Branch of the Navy League of Canada.

SUCCESS is often achieved through committed 

involvement – and VOLUNTEERING can ensure the outcome.  Please help ensure our outcome.

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