Local volunteers worth recognizing

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Elizabeth Andrew once said “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”

To kick-off volunteer appreciation week, on Sunday, April 23 Cold Lake will recognize those with the heart for volunteering locally through the Volunteer Appreciation Event.

Leanne Draper, volunteer services program facilitator with Cold Lake and District FCSS said a world without volunteers would be devastating.

“What a deficit it would be if all of the volunteers just disappeared one day,” Draper said. “I don’t think there would be the community caring, how we take care of each other. I don’t think there would be some of those fun things we see in our community. It wouldn’t be the fun, livable place that the Cold Lake and area is.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, nominations are submitted for the eight volunteer awards. This year, they received 23 nominations.

“That’s a record breaker for us. We’re so thrilled,” Draper noted.

The eight categories include the rising star award, newbie of the year, behind the scenes, community impact individual, community impact group, lifetime achievement, coach of the year, and protector of the environment.

Draper described her favourite award, newbie of the year, as a chance to acknowledge someone who is new to volunteering and who has “embraced volunteering, and it has just become a part of their life.”

“They are almost like an ambassador for volunteering, with their enthusiasm and their newness to it,” she added.

The coach of the year award is given to a coach who offers their time and expertise to improve sports amongst children and youth, and who shows commitment to developing those athletes as community members.

Jennifer Dusyk-Johnson has been nominated for the protector of the environment award for her work with Cold Lake High School students, encouraging healthy water habits, executing a water bottle fill-up station project, and creating a bat sanctuary.

“It’s a real honour that someone in the community, who I may not necessarily know directly, is aware of some of the things we are doing, and appreciates that. I was so happy to receive the nomination, it’s always nice to be acknowledged,” Dusyk-Johnson noted.

“Behind the scenes is always an interesting award. We’re looking for those volunteers that are never front and centre. These are the folks in the background, the treasurers, the people who do the call outs, organize the equipment, but without those volunteers, organizations and sports teams just couldn’t function,” noted Draper.

This year, the community impact award has been split into individual and group categories. In order to be nominated the volunteers must have coordinated or participated in an activity or event that has made a powerful impact on the community. Their volunteerism must address a community need or deficiency.

Candice Campbell has been nominated for the individual award for her work with Protection for the Unprotected, for offering a foster home to animals through the Lakeland Humane Society, and organizing the security for the Cold Lake Ice hockey season.

“I was taken aback. I was kind of stunned… I didn’t feel as though I deserved the nomination, because being involved with Protection for the Unprotected is just something I am very passionate about. I just do whatever I can to help out, and I didn’t think that warranted a nomination for such a wonderful title,” Campbell described, adding once it sank in that she had been nominated by her peers in the group, she was humbled and honoured.

New to the lineup this year is the lifetime achievement award. This accolade will be given to someone who has been a volunteer in various capacities with a number of organizations over the years, has exemplified commitment, reliability and a desire to help others, displays leadership, and inspires others to volunteer.

“When you think about our community, or really any community for that matter, and you consider all of the things that volunteers do, it really is tremendous,” said Draper, adding volunteers can be found almost anywhere; within the schools, organizing events, or coaching kids sports teams.

“Without these volunteers within the community, who would do these jobs? Who would go out and spend their weekends or weekdays volunteering to tutor, be a Big Brother or Big Sister, and help out with the Special Olympics? How would these organizations run without these volunteers?” asked Draper. “Without those volunteers, all of those kinds of organizations would just cease to exist.”

Volunteers do more than just donate their time and efforts. They encourage others, and teach youth a valuable life lesson.

Draper explained, “It gives a good model for community service, it teaches compassion for those in our community who are less fortunate, and it teaches a lot of responsibility.”

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