Just Keep Swimming

Did you know that we’ve had DCL volunteers swim the English Channel, an incredible distance of at least 21 miles across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world? Well, maybe not literally, but in truth, we’d hold them up to those incredible athletes any time. Especially during this time.

Swimming the channel takes time and endurance. These foundational elements are consistently demonstrated by our committed volunteers. In 2019 alone, approximately 1,700 members of our library community donated nearly 37,000 hours of their time to their beloved library.

You must be well-prepared and have knowledge of the local waters. Library volunteers are a wealth of expertise and experience. They know (and are) our customers and, therefore, often act as our best advocates for the role DCL plays in serving, responding to, and providing for the needs, strength and growth of our community.

Conditions can change quickly. Nothing could be more true about this year, 2020. We’ve gone from a wellspring of creativity in anticipation of a year filled with community engagement—with all of the preparation, projects, and program and event support that our volunteers provide—to suddenly facing a changing tide. Swimmers know they might need to alter their course and perhaps even swim against the tide in order to reach the shore. They adjust their strategy and dig deep to some inexplicable source of resilience, and they persevere. In the days and hours before the COVID-19 closure, DCL volunteers processed library materials, shelved books, sorted donations, cleared surfaces for cleaning, delivered books to homebound community members, and made sure every last online sales order was filled and shipped to our eager customers. They saw the coming tide and dug deep. As we alter our course, DCL volunteers will be eager to help in new ways and greater capacity.

You need a support team. Channel swimmers are not allowed to touch another human being during the course of the challenge. At this moment, that sounds painfully familiar. Yet, swimmers can receive food and drink from their support team via a pole stretched out to them. The Volunteer Services team is reaching out to our volunteers with scores of emails, cards, phone calls, and virtual gatherings. They are the lifeline of strong connections with words of encouragement and gratitude, along with book recommendations, recipes, photos of family and pets, and favorite quotes. National Volunteer Week 2020 was April 19-25, and the Volunteer Services team made sure that our volunteers knew that love, appreciation and commitment go both ways. We remain here for them, just as they have always been here for us.

Some swimmers don’t stop with one crossing; they are driven to do more. In sight of land, but true to their nature, volunteers are heading back into the waters by seeking out ways to help during the crisis. They are able to use the new community response link on the Volunteer Connect Douglas County portal to help their fellow Douglas County residents make it through this time.

We look forward to the hugs, to pats on the back with exclamations of “We made it!” and sighs of relief, and the long deep breaths. We will be ready for new opportunities because our volunteers know how to embrace a challenge and keep swimming.

Written by Kim McClintock, Branch Volunteer Coordinator, Highlands Ranch

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