OPINION: Terry Millar is certainly not famous or an attention seeker.
He is a long-serving Riverton Fire Brigade volunteer, who loves the sea-side town and most of the people in it.
We say most of the people because it appears someone in the area has a mean, low-life streak to them. Because twice in the past month, Mr Millar's house has been broken into while he was doing his bit for the community at fire service events.
On the first occasion a bottle of whiskey was taken. Then, about two weeks later, more alcohol was pinched, along with keys, a wallet - with "quite a few bob in it" - his driver's licence and credit cards, along with his fire service pager.
So why are we focusing on Mr Millar and why is his misfortune any worse than others in our community, who have had their homes burgled, possessions stolen and privacy invaded in the most intrusive of ways? Well, because Mr Millar is one of those good buggers we need to look after in Southland. He's a selfless volunteer, having been a member of the Riverton Fire Brigade for 17 years.
And volunteers, it needs to be explained, are the unsung heroes of our province. They are the glue that literally holds Southland together. They carry out a whole host of unpaid work in a range of areas, from sport and the arts, to conservation, to working with children.
They are the men and women who tirelessly give their time and energy to help others - running clubs, helping those in need, listening, cleaning up and rescuing those who are in trouble.
They are the ones - to spell it out - who make our society work. So we need to look after them, especially in Southland because where would we be without the thousands of volunteers who get involved simply because they want to week-in, week-out?
Would we still have a Santa Parade every year if it were not for the whole host of volunteers who put up their hands to help out? How many lives would be lost on the often treacherous Foveaux Strait if the volunteer-run Bluff Coastguard was not around to perform rescues?
Would your children's sports teams still exist if they didn't have coaches or managers to make things happen?
Southland, probably more than most provinces throughout the country, are blessed to have so many volunteers and that's important because of our isolation.
But sometimes we can take it for granted that they will always be around, that events will always take place, that rescue teams will always be there, that weekend sport will always be staged.
That won't be the case, of course, because world-wide the number of volunteers has been falling for some time. People are much less willing to join organisations than they used to be. There's also so much more demand on everyone's time because of work and family pressures and because there are so many more clubs and events than there used to be a decade ago.
From the cubs and brownies, to sports teams and community events, nearly every kind of membership organisation is suffering from a drop in people.
That is why it makes the diehards and the true heroes, like Riverton's Terry Millar, even more precious. And that is also why it makes the news of the double break-in of his house, while he was out doing what volunteers do, even more despicable and harder to stomach.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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