There is always a level of surprise when people find out that a group like the Fort George Highway Rescue Society is a group of volunteers.
Most people volunteer to sit on boards, advocate on behalf of others (children, seniors, etc.), hold fundraisers, put on community events or help people in a quick and simple way, such as taking their ticket or pointing them in the direction of the bathrooms.
Then there's the Fort George Highway Rescue Society. While it has volunteers to fundraise and balance its books, most of the society's members go out on calls, rescuing people involved in car accidents and other emergencies in all of the areas outside of the city not covered by other first responders.
Don't be fooled by the uniforms. The people using the Jaws of Life to extract people trapped in their vehicles after a highway accident on a remote section of Highway 97 or 16 are volunteers.
It's not just this way in the Prince George area. There are society's like this across the province, everywhere outside of the Lower Mainland.
Imagine the horrors these volunteers deal with. Some of those in need of help are badly hurt and screaming. Some of them are bleeding profusely. Some of them are dying or the person next to them in the vehicle is already dead.
That's volunteer work for the brave, for people who want to make an immediate difference in the community and who are willing to get their hands dirty doing it. These are front-line volunteers who deserve nothing but admiration and respect for their commitment.
The Fort George Highway Rescue Society, like their fellow agencies across the province, limp from year to year to get funding to carry on their important work. Much of the money comes from gaming money collected from the province. Sadly, the B.C. Liberals have become addicted to gaming revenue during their years in power and have made it harder and harder for non-profit community societies to access that money.
That's how a small mistake in the paperwork to the province cost the local rescue society $50,000, half of its annual $100,000 it normally receives from the province.
Combine that with the need for a new home and the society finds itself in real danger of having to close its doors.
That would be a tragedy.
The province needs to more seriously invest in highway rescue than to simply leave volunteer organizations at the mercy of improperly filled out grant proposals and the gambling habits of residents. Luck should have nothing to do with keeping these volunteers equipped and ready to go out onto distant roads and do work most people wouldn't be willing to do even if they got paid for it.
-- Managing editor Neil Godbout