"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and then not giving it." (Wm. Arthur Ward) This is a tremendous sentiment, so I will start with a deep and truly heartfelt THANK YOU to every volunteer that ever gives times, thought, effort, or care, without any consideration of pay or financial advancement. That doesn't mean volunteering is without reward. As a volunteer myself, I know I am rewarded when I am thanked, and it feels good for my effort to count to someone, at least some of the time. So I deeply appreciate volunteers and want to share with others any of that sense of recognition that makes it worthwhile for them.
There are LOTS of reasons to volunteer, some that sound noble, some that may not sound noble, but in the end that isn't what makes it great; every volunteer extends themselves in some way for the aid of another--for an individual, for an agency helping individuals, doesn't matter, it is still for the benefit of another. And that effort can be easy or hard, time-consuming or quick, it can play to our strengths or force us out of our comfort zone... again, what matters is that it aims to benefit someone else.
I am not just thanking everyone who volunteers with the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, although you top my list (!). I'm thanking everyone who ever volunteers, because I know I have benefited from that energy, that care, that willingness, the ripple effects from those qualities, as have all those I love, whether they can bring it to mind immediately or not.
Volunteers make a difference. "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference." (Tom Brokaw) Thank you, gracias, merci, spaseba, danke...