Column: God bless ‘Crew 52,’ I suppose

I haven’t decided if I should be encouraged, or disappointed.

Football fans should be excited, allegedly, by the fact that Minneapolis will be hosting the upcoming Super Bowl in February. Every hotel with rooms to book, be it in Bloomington, St. Paul or Maple Grove will certainly appreciate the influx of visitors during a time when your neighbors are looking to fly anywhere south of the Iowa border. It is suggested that one million visitors will find their way to Minnesota during the days leading up to a single football game, and I suspect that motels far from downtown Minneapolis will benefit during that week.

I watch football. Every year. And the fact that the game will take place approximately seven miles from my Richfield home doesn’t do much for me. I don’t stand to profit from it, and I can’t afford to attend, under any circumstance. For me the game won’t be much different than last year’s Super Bowl, wherever it was played. I will never forget the come-from-behind outcome, but I won’t remember it happened in Houston.

Plenty of people who aren’t in a position to profit from the game, or attend, seem to want to be part of the action. And I’m perplexed by it. Earlier this year there was a push for volunteers to join “Crew 52.” That’s the name they’re giving those who volunteer, in some capacity, to assist with hosting the Super Bowl. Volunteers are asked to commit to at least three shifts, and won’t be volunteering at the corporate-sponsored stadium in Minneapolis. I’m still uncertain what these volunteers will be doing, but 10,000 of them are needed.

I read recently that there will be a second wave of recruiting to ensure those 10,000 slots are filled, even though the first cattle call garnered at least 10,000 enthusiastic volunteers. I’m a bit dumbfounded.

The NFL is a sports league that will generate billions of dollars in spending, by both its fans and its corporate sponsors in the months to come, and will sprinkle that spending throughout the Twin Cities, and beyond, for a couple of weeks in the dead of winter. And despite the money being bandied about, volunteers are needed to somehow shepherd the sheep to and from hotels and high-priced events leading up to a football game many of us couldn’t justify buying a ticket to.

And people are enthusiastic to help support all of this by donating their time. It must be a nice parka they’ll be receiving in exchange for their service.

Do what makes you happy, just don’t expect me to understand it.

The recent Fourth of July celebrations we saw in our communities are often vivid reminders to me that we have many great volunteers. The Fourth of July and Thanksgiving seem to shine the brightest lights upon volunteerism in our communities. People give up time on a holiday for the benefit to others, be it a community celebration or to provide a warm meal for those without a family to share a turkey dinner.

Those celebrations are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the value of volunteerism in our communities, but they’re the ones that remind me of how many people give of their time and talent every week of the year.

I could brainstorm for an hour and would fail to list dozens of volunteer efforts taking place in our communities.

Our local food shelves rely heavily upon a steady dose of volunteers to organize and distribute the donations received to help families in need. Our schools are filled with volunteers who work both in the buildings and outside of the school day to assist students in a plethora of ways. And a variety of community organizations provide support for youth programs and services.

Community centers often provide the space and resources to assist residents in a variety of ways, from learning to speak the English language to completing an income tax return. And volunteers help many fundraising walks raise money for worthy causes year after year, be it at a community park or inside the walls of Mall of America.

And yet I periodically run into stories about how the lack of volunteers makes it difficult to sustain efforts. The need for volunteers is never ending, but time is a commodity that is precious, yet increasingly limited as the years tick by. Some folks have the luxury of giving a substantial amount of time, be it seasonally or throughout the year, to a community organization or cause. But many of us are not so fortunate.

It’s hard to fault people who want to volunteer their time for the betterment of others, regardless of how much money the NFL will bring to Minnesota, or take with it when cirque du Super Bowl leaves town. If people want to donate time to a multi-billon dollar enterprise, so be it.

My appreciation will be reserved for those who continue to donate their time and talent for the betterment of our communities.


Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.