Skip to content

St. Albert celebrates its volunteers

On the streets and in our homes, in the library and the pool, the social agencies and the schools, volunteers are always giving and never asking for anything in return. They are the unsung heroes of a humanitarian army of thousands.

On the streets and in our homes, in the library and the pool, the social agencies and the schools, volunteers are always giving and never asking for anything in return. They are the unsung heroes of a humanitarian army of thousands. They are the very essence of our social fabric and although we praise them in our hearts, there is one time of the year when we must sing their names aloud.

The Community Information and Volunteer Centre (CIVC) knows very well the extent of the selfless contributions made by those people. The unique local agency helps to match volunteers with 185 St. Albert and Edmonton organizations based on the group's needs and the person's abilities, making for the most effective volunteer experience possible. It's the epitome of the win-win situation as volunteers often say they get more out of the work than what they give.

Executive Director Glynis Thomas said the great thing about volunteering is that you are doing the work you want to do.

"Those volunteers are not unique as much as they have found that they've been able to find the kinds of volunteer work that they do to be fulfilling. Those individuals — and I believe there are many in our community — who find volunteering to be very fulfilling and will continue to contribute."

Every year the CIVC asks all residents to shine a light on the volunteers that they appreciate the most by asking for nominations for the annual Volunteer Citizen of the Year Awards. Out of dozens of nominees, a panel of judges has deliberated and agreed upon five names for final consideration.

Pat Wagensveld

When you think of art proprietors in St. Albert, Wagensveld's name is one of the top few that come to mind. As owner of the Studio Gallery since 1994, she provides an ever-present glimpse into art for passersby in Grandin mall and for the last five years on Perron Street. This is also just a peek into how deeply she cares for art, as evidenced by her many other volunteer activities. She is proud to show her support for local artists and even other local galleries beyond how the gallery participates in the spring and summer series of Art Walks. On a number of occasions, she has been a juror for Profiles Public Art Gallery just down the block and has even been a board member for its umbrella organization, the Arts and Heritage Foundation. Along with her other arts-related economic guidance activities with the former Downtown Business Association and the St. Albert Economic Development Advisory Committee, she is also the founder of the Artists Colony Association of Grandin mall and the Visual Arts Studio Association, a co-operative that supports emerging professional and amateur artists.

Don Belke

A retired RCMP chief superintendent, Belke knows very well the ins and outs of the community's needs and how to help out as an active citizen. For the past six years, he has lent his expertise as a board member with St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families but that isn't all. He volunteers as a driver with both Meals on Wheels to make sure that local housebound seniors get food and the Canadian Cancer Society to see that patients get to their appointments at the Cross Cancer Institute. He also helps out with the local canteen at RCMP K Division in Edmonton and the annual Christmas Kettle drives organized by the Salvation Army and still finds time to volunteer on the board with the Commissionaires.

Hu Puffer

If there was ever a poster boy for the spirit of volunteerism, Puffer would be it. He has been called an excellent ambassador not just because he has been giving his time for decades but also because he does it gracefully, compassionately and dependably. As a long-term volunteer driver for both the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Meals on Wheels, he has repeatedly helped a countless number of people in their times of need. According to the CCS, he has driven 745 passengers to the Cross Cancer Institute, travelling a total of more than 21,000 km over the course of almost 1,000 hours. That's the equivalent of a full-time job for half a year just driving people back and forth. Rather than grumble about the tedium of traffic, he is known as having a great sense of humour as well as being extremely professional and polite.

Paula Ryan

A diligent organizer, Ryan has been an invaluable and reliable supporter at Albert Lacombe School since 2001. The work that she does in Marleen Atkinson's kindergarten class provides an extra boost of efficiency and order that gives the students a sound structure for the start of their education. With boundless energy, contagious enthusiasm and creative wherewithal, she often goes above and beyond the call of duty. She has designed and developed ways to increase the administration of the class's records by coming up with a filing system for the student files and making a display for the students' art, sometimes even taking her volunteer work home. She supervises art projects and even coaches students through some specific activities.

Ireen Slater

It's a trying task to summarize Slater's volunteer career and activities but she is one of the most recognizable names and faces in St. Albert's community sector for a very good reason: she has made social advocacy her mission and, moreover, she does it with force and verve. A previous finalist for this award in 2006, she has spent numerous years fighting for affordable housing as well as women's and seniors' issues. She was the founding chair of the local chapter of the provincial advocacy group called Seniors United Now. She also founded St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families in 1989, an agency that helps all people deal with the growing problem of domestic violence. For the past few years, she has been a volunteer at the St. Albert Senior Citizens' Club, doing whatever was needed. She is a fixture at many events throughout the year, always working and giving to help others. Some call her the cornerstone of community participation.

The Volunteer Citizen of the Year will revealed at an awards ceremony Saturday May 1 at St. Albert Alliance Church Hall at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20. Call 780-459-6666.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks