BARRHEAD - Barrhead would be a vastly different community, and not for the better, it were it not for the efforts of its volunteers.
That is what Town of Barrhead Coun. Rod Klumph told the audience at the Barrhead's annual volunteer appreciation event at Bethel Pentecostal Church on April 30.
The annual appreciation event, which basically took two years off due to the pandemic, is not only a way to say thank you to all the community's volunteers but specifically to honour the recipients of the community's special award winners, of which the New to You thrift store received the “Make a Difference” award for a group or organization; Florette Measures received the Herman's Heroes award; and Ruth Bohn, who received the Rosemary Empey award for volunteer of the year.
"We have so many volunteers in our community," Klumph said, listing off a long list of organizations in musical form using Hank Snow's I've been Everywhere song. "You can imagine without all these people, our town wouldn't be as good, so thank you all for volunteering."
It was a sentiment shared by the other dignitaries, including Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken and County of Barrhead reeve Doug Drozd.
Viersen noted that almost everyone volunteers in some form or another, whether it is helping out a family member or neighbour.
"And the thing we need the most for payment for that is a simple thank you," he said. "So I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to volunteer, and a special thank you to the award winners."
van Dijken agreed, adding that rural communities are built on volunteerism.
"(When we) are doing something for our neighbours or the others around us, we don't consider what we are doing is volunteering, but it is," he said.
van Dijken added that Alberta, in particular, is a very generous province that leads the country in volunteerism, noting that 50 per cent of Albertan adults volunteer.
"We also, as a province, lead the country in charitable giving to the causes and organizations that we believe in," he said.
Drozd agreed with his elected colleagues on the importance of volunteerism to the community and the need for people to recognize volunteers.
However, as important as it is for the community to say thank you, especially to the special award winners, he said that it is equally important for the award winners to accept the adulation from the community.
"You may want to point to others and say they are as equally deserving, but (the award and praise) are a long time coming ... I want to say thank you, and I want to see people take up your example and keep this positivity going and pay-it-forward," Drozd said.
Make a Difference Award
The New To You thrift shop volunteers were nominated for the award by the Blue Heron Support Services Association (BHSSA).
The BHSSA is a not-for-profit organization that helps individuals with developmental, physical, sensory and brain injuries. BHSSA also provides adult continuing education opportunities and programs to support caregivers of those who suffer from the above conditions, mostly by providing respite.
Mark Oberg, who MCed the event along with Ros Rudd, noted the thrift shop performs several functions, from helping to keep useful items out of the landfill to providing a supportive environment for people with developmental disabilities and helping fund BHSSA activities.
"That is a big, big deal," he said. "And they do everything with enthusiasm and happiness."
Oberg noted the past two years have been difficult on the thrift shop volunteers, as they have at times struggled to find enough people to mind the shop through the pandemic.
"The remaining group stepped up to the plate and have managed to keep things running smoothly," he said.
The Herman's Heroes Award, sponsored by a Barrhead Royal Canadian Legion and named after Korean War veteran and long-time Legion member and volunteer Herman Barkemeyer, is a recent addition to Barrhead's awards, being awarded to the award's namesake in 2018.
What makes this award unique is that last year's recipient (Marion Bendrien) chooses the current year's winner.
Barkemeyer gave Measures her award in the absence of Bendrien.
"It gives me so much pleasure to present this award. It is for people who sometimes get bypassed," he said. "Everyone who has received the award has made a difference, and Florette is no exception."
In her submission, Bendrien said she first met Measures through work.
Although Measures worked full time, Bendrien said, she always found time to volunteer at her children's sporting events and still found time to volunteer, often through her church.
"Florette would work all night, then she would be at the United Church organizing and making funeral lunches with the wonderful United Church Ladies," she wrote.
Measures thanked Bendrien and all the people she volunteered with, especially those at her church, saying they all played a part in her receiving the award.
"Empathy and kindness go a long way in this world," she said.
Rosemary Empey Award
Established in 1992 in remembrance of Rosemary Empey, a volunteer who dedicated countless hours to the community, this award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and dedication for the benefit of the community.
Last year's Rosemary Empey Award winner Susan McLaren nominated Bohn, noting the Bohn family has a long tradition of volunteerism.
"I have the privilege of knowing Ruth as a friend, a library colleague (both are on the Barrhead Public Library board, through the music festival, as a teacher, and as an arts council member. I think I'm going to run out of words if I say any more," she said. "So I'm just going to say, thank you so much for all the things that you do for our community. When I came to Barrhead all those years ago, I never anticipated that I would still be here, but it is because of people like you that make it the place to be."
Bohn encouraged people to find ways they could make a difference in the community, encouraging them to get off those Lazyboys and infuse life into the community, noting there are several service clubs, groups and organizations looking for volunteers.