I was at a Tonto Rim Search and Rescue meeting last week when a man named Bill Hutchinson stood up and thanked the people who had rescued him after he became lost on a hiking trail.
Hutchinson is an avid hiker who said he has never been lost before. But the trail he was on disappeared, and so did the sun. He and his friend thought they were doomed to a cold night curled up in the dirt.
As the two sat shivering, they heard a voice and saw a flashlight approaching. Commander Dave Pirtle and his crew came to the rescue and helped the tired hikers back to their car.
Tonto Rim Search and Rescue is one of our many local organizations run by volunteers -- people who devote their time and energy to helping others. In fact, during the same meeting, and as part of National Volunteer Week, a member of Search and Rescue, Johnny Boyles, was honored for a lifetime of volunteering and supporting search and rescue.
Boyles served as a Marine, a firefighter in Alaska, a member of Maricopa County Metro Assist Posse and is currently a part of our own search and rescue organization. He has essentially rescued people his whole life -- with little or no financial compensation involved.
This community is fortunate enough to have many Johnny Boyles -- people who donate time to help adults learn to read, raise funds for scholarships, provide love to an orphaned dog at the shelter or visit a homebound senior.
Our local law enforcement agencies utilize their dedicated groups of volunteers to assist them with everything from traffic control to transportation. These men and women not only assist the officers on duty, but save the taxpayers thousands of dollars a year for the service they provide.
As organizations and social service agencies face funding cutbacks, volunteers become even more critical. Sometimes, they even mean the difference between having a service and not having one.
State parks, animal shelters, senior centers, domestic violence shelters all persevere because of the selfless ... the Johnny Boyles of the Rim country.
Hutchinson's gratitude to those who rescued him that cold night is a sentiment we can all echo. Volunteers give us all much more than they take and we should all be indebted.