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Volunteers honoured for their contributions

Volunteers continue to be the lifeblood that drives the success of many organizations.

Volunteers continue to be the lifeblood that drives the success of many organizations.

Barrhead has a strong volunteer base, and the work they do to ensure a better life for all residents was recognized last week when Family and Community Support Services played host to its annual volunteer awards evening. All 550 tickets were sold for the event, which named the winners of three categories: the Rosemary Empey Volunteer of the Year award, the Youth Volunteer of the Year award and the Longstanding Service award.

Rita Lyster garnered the Volunteer of the Year award; Matt Steinbring was named the Youth Volunteer of the Year, while Dean and Herb Kloeck claimed the Longstanding Service award.

“It has been an honour working in this community, and we’ll continue to do so,” Herb Kloeck told those who gathered at the Barrhead Agrena for the gala event.

Rita Lyster joked that with three-quarters of the nominations under her belt for the Volunteer of the Year award, her chances of winning were pretty good. In all seriousness, though, she said it is nice to be recognized for her work, and she is humbled to be in the company of those who were honoured before her. She said volunteering is her calling, and she has been blessed with the talent of organization and leadership.

“I want to thank my teammate Steve for his love and support, and our two daughters,” Lyster said, and added another thank you to all of the other volunteers in Barrhead who responded to their own call of volunteerism.

Matt Steinbring was nominated for his work with a Grade 4 class at Barrhead Elementary School, where he usually puts in 15 to 18 hours a week helping the young students. He also volunteers his time at Barrhead Continuing Care, where he plays cards and visits with the residents.

“I was shocked to be nominated,” Steinbring said. “When I found out who nominated me, I was very pleased and thankful. I do this to get myself out of the house and doing things. I really enjoy being around the kids and talking with them.”

FCSS Volunteer Awards co-ordinator Debbie Gilroy was very excited about the fact all 550 tickets were sold for the event.

“We had a fantastic turnout,” she said. “That makes this the largest group we have ever had. Every year, people come out to show their respect for our volunteers and to one another. It’s a real tremendous event.”

All of the award winners are very deserving of their recognition, she said. This year, FCSS added two new awards to the lineup. In the past, the committee handed out the Rosemary Empey award, which was continued this year, but with the addition of the youth award and the longstanding service award, the committee was quite pleased with the number of nominations.

“With the youth award, we really want to encourage the youth in our community to volunteer,” Gilroy said. “Many of them already do, but if we can recognize them a little more, then perhaps more of them will get involved. Matt is an amazing volunteer, and it’s good for other youth to know about his accomplishments. For the longstanding service award, there are many people in the community who have been volunteering for so many years, and they all deserve so much more recognition.”

The selection committee has an extremely difficult job each year, she added, and thanked all the volunteers in the community, and the committee members who work diligently to make this event happen.

Alberta’s Lt.-Gov. Don Ethel and his wife were honorary guests at the volunteer appreciation event. He said a community’s core of volunteers is like a small army, and like any good army, organizations constantly need to be recruiting, training and planning for the future.

“If you don’t, you run the risk of burning out key people and losing quality programs you’ve worked very hard to create,” he said. “It can be difficult to get new people out, but if you meet resistance, let them in on this secret: there’s no better way to be great, and to make a lasting and positive impact on the world, and to share the best of yourself with your community.”

He commended Barrhead on its volunteers, and said many of the programs and services in any community rely on the effort of volunteers. Residents who lend a hand with schools, cultural, recreational and service club programs, and those who offer their expertise with municipal and regional boards are helping to make their community a better place.

“Being a volunteer, I’ve volunteered for many things including humanitarian efforts overseas and with veterans. It’s a tremendous source of fun, fellowship and self-sacrifice; it isn’t always easy, and very rarely is it glamorous. Volunteering demands energy and enthusiasm, and equal parts of patience and understanding. To top it off, many volunteers juggle community contributions with family and work commitments.”

He said an enthusiastic and well-co-ordinated core of community volunteers could do amazing things. They can foster a wealth of support that encourages young people to grow into strong, capable and caring adults. Great teams of volunteers can also help ensure the social, economic and cultural success of a community, he said, and compassionate volunteers can reach out and make a difference in the world for those in need.

“Volunteers are what make a community in which everyone can thrive and be proud to call home. I would like to recognize every volunteer for their soul and heartfelt service they’ve poured into the community.”