The owners of the Sobeys store in Westlock were recently recognized for their contributions to local schools by the Pembina Hills school division.
At the 43rd annual Westlock Rotary Club Charter Night celebration, which was hosted at the Westlock Inn on Jan. 15, Rotarian Tom Vesely and his wife Susan were presented with the Exemplary Community Partner Award.
The award was created by Pembina Hills to recognize members of the community who go the ‘extra mile’ for their local schools. Board chairman Doug Fleming, who is also a Rotarian, was on hand to present the award.
Tom said they had no idea they were getting the award, but were pleasantly surprised and honoured by the accolade.
“We were caught quite off guard,” he said.
Tom said he and Susan have always believed in giving back to the community and supporting local schools is one way of doing that.
“We believe that by supporting the kids, we’re building the future of our community in the long term,” he said.
Tom and Susan were nominated for this award almost simultaneously this fall by Westlock Elementary School and R.F. Staples School.
To receive the award, recipients must have a minimum of two years involvement with a school within the division.
They must demonstrate initiative, exhibit a positive attitude towards students and parents, contribute to the overall vitality of their school and community, act as a role model for life-long learning, and demonstrate good citizenship.
WES principal Terry Anderson said the award has been around for a while but they haven’t been using it much.
“It’s not something that gets handed out often,” he said.
Anderson said they put in their nomination before Christmas not realizing that R.F. Staples had already nominated the couple.
“It was quite unusual how they got nominated by two schools at the same time,” he added.
Anderson noted that the couple recently donated $1,000 to purchase helmets for the school’s skating program and they’ve been tremendously supportive of the breakfast program.
Ultimately, they nominated Tom and Susan because they’ve gone above any reasonable expectation of support from a member of the community.
“They’re just amazing people,” he said.
R.F. Staples School vice principal Pierre Ouimet said the couple have supported the school’s Terry Fox Run, Mukluk Day and the students’ union barbecue by either providing food and drinks for free, or at a significant discount.
Another big way they support R.F. Staples is through the Sobeys fundraising card, which has generated thousands of dollars for the school. They also support the work experience program significantly.
“We go to them often and they never say ‘no,’” said Ouimet.
While presenting the award, Fleming said he was certainly in agreement with the the choice of the couple for this particular award.