Volunteers to be recognized
Town of Westlock and FCSS Volunteer Appreciation Night planned for April 20 at Rotary Spirit Centre
Tuesday, Apr 18, 2017 06:00 am
Volunteering can be a thankless job, so for at least one night 151 volunteers from Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and the Town of Westlock will get a taste of recognition for their efforts over the last year.
The town has invited all its volunteers on council-appointed committees and FCSS programs to a special volunteer appreciation night April 20 at the Rotary Spirit Centre, which includes a supper and awards.
“It’s very causal awards. In all reality, most of the people who volunteer do it and don’t want to be recognized, so it’s pretty informal. Everybody gets their name mentioned and acknowledged,” said FCSS program co-ordinator Maureen Schiller
After words of congratulations are heard and backs patted for a job well done, volunteers will be able to let loose with horse race games, paper airplane races, Jenga and bowling.
“We do some activities after supper and just let them have some fun — it’s just a fun night for them,” added Annette Boissonnault, Town of Westlock municipal clerk.
As well, guests can expect a few special surprises around two notable anniversaries.
FCSS groups that will be recognized include Meals on Wheels, Santa’s Anonymous, Coats for Kids, Light Up Parade, drivers for medical appointments and volunteers at other community events.
For council-appointed committees, some of those will be Citizens on Patrol, the FCSS Advisory Board, Municipal Planning Commission and the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
“The core group of my volunteers have been with their programs for a good 10 plus years, which I think is wonderful,” Schiller said. “We have a gentleman with our tax program that he’s been … it’s got to be somewhere between 18 or 20 years doing volunteering for that program.”
Registration for volunteer appreciation starts at 5:30 p.m. with supper at 6 p.m.
“Our staff always put on a good show and try to make it fun and have come up with some novel ideas over the past few years on how to do that,” said mayor Ralph Leriger.
Leriger will be one of the speakers acknowledging the volunteers, who he calls the lifeblood of small communities.
“In a small community, I think it’s because we’re vested in each other’s success,” he noted. “We give a darn about each other. I think that makes the difference. Think about some of the volunteerism that goes in at FCSS — people volunteering to help others do their taxes and things like that. That’s quite a different kind of volunteering than say coaching kids. I think it’s because we’re vested in each other’s success.”
As for council-appointed committees, he said the volunteers were not only dedicating their time to meetings but also playing a decision-making role on behalf of their community members.
“More importantly, it’s getting that public engagement, that feedback from the community on where people are at and what vision they have for their community,” he said.
Shirley Morie, former mayor and long-time volunteer with numerous agencies in the area, came to the same conclusion.
“They have the best interests of the community at heart, so their voices, their opinions and the fact that they work towards the betterment of the community, I think that shapes your community,” she said.
Morie also offered her perspective as a volunteer, most recently as chair of the Westlock 100th Anniversary Committee and treasurer of the Healthy Family Healthy Futures board.
“I do it because I like the community, I’ve lived in it a long time, and the things that I volunteer for I enjoy. It’s just part of my life. I love living in Westlock. I think it’s the greatest town ever and if I can help in any way, I’m more than pleased to do it and I’m sure that’s what all the other volunteers feel too.”
However, finding new volunteers to inject energy into these groups and keep them running is a struggle for many communities. Her advice is to choose a group for the short term and put your best into it.
“I think when people are on the same committee for a long time, that’s when they burn out, so I’m sort of a believer in pick your committee, do your job and then sit back and relax,” she said. “When something else comes along, you do that. Not only is it good for you, I think it’s good for the committee because then they get fresh ideas, fresh people coming on, fresh enthusiasm.”
Although, sometimes the hardest part is taking your own advice. Morie has sat on the Healthy Family Healthy Futures board for around a dozen years
“They got me at the right time,” she said with a laugh.
“I had been the mayor for nine years and they got me the year after I retired. I was looking for something to do and it’s a great organization, so I volunteered there.”