Editorial: Care about our area? Become a volunteer

Two stories in this week’s paper offered contrasting impressions of the state of volunteerism on the North Fork.

The first was about three East Marion teenagers who joined the local fire department despite still being students at Greenport High School.

The second addressed the difficulty nonprofits have finding reliable volunteers and focuses on the North Fork Environmental Council, which has been unable to replace its president.

The work these nonprofit groups do every day may not be as exciting as firefighting, but their goals are no less noble. North Fork Environmental Council members attend weekday board meetings, lengthy work sessions and public hearings that often last late into the night and must build and maintain relationships with local elected leaders. All that takes a lot of time and effort. But for those who value the North Fork’s environmental health or have ever enjoyed a swim in our bays, it’s time and effort well-spent.

We often — and rightly — laud firefighters and emergency medical technicians for their work. Those volunteers take enormous risks, sometimes putting their lives on the line to help others. The commitment made by these young students deserves praise.

But people can also make a difference by showing up at Town Board meetings, participating in cleanup events or walks and rallies to spread awareness of local issues, and donating or working at food pantries, where our neediest neighbors can get a healthy meal.

Leaders of NFEC and other nonprofits, like Group for the East End and Community Action Southold Town, agree: It’s harder than ever for people to carve out time to volunteer. Even if it’s only an hour here or there, any time we donate will help.

Find a cause you believe in and locate a group that’s been toiling away for years to support that mission. Give them your time, however difficult it may be.

Join a local civic group, support an area charity or attend a nonprofit’s next event. An internet search or cursory glance at the Town Hall bulletin board will generate plenty of options.

We can all learn from the example set by the young firefighters on this week’s front page by finding our own ways to help our environment, our community and our neighbors. And in the process, we just might help ourselves as well.