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Volunteers make the difference for FCSS

Posted on May 2, 2024 by Vauxhall Advance

By Garrett Simmons
Family and Community Support Services

Volunteering can be an incredibly-rewarding experience.

Across Alberta, volunteers give so much of themselves each and every day, and it makes a massive difference in every community.

Those volunteers are appreciated and every once in a while, it’s important to see them recognized for their efforts.

This year, Family and Community Support Services, through its Cheers to Volunteers initiative, launched the Outstanding Volunteer Awards. To say the recognition meant a lot to winners, would be a massive understatement.

“It was just an awesome, wholesome, heartwarming experience,” said Kaitlynn Weaver, FCSS Outreach Services Supervisor, as she spoke about the volunteer-recognition events. “It felt amazing and we could see smiles beaming from their faces. It meant a lot to them and it meant a lot to us.”

Volunteers were recognized in the youth, individual and group categories. Nominees were evaluated by an external panel from Volunteer Lethbridge, as Stewart Foss took home the individual honour, the Taber Youth DO Crew won the group award and Adriena Van Liere was the youth winner.

The winners received individualized celebrations, as Foss was recognized during a Little Pantry Society board meeting in Raymond, Van Liere was celebrated at the library in Picture Butte where she volunteers and the DO Crew enjoyed pizza and ice cream.

“We just wanted to recognize the valuable contributions our volunteers make in all of our communities,” said Cindy Lauwen, FCSS Volunteer Services Coordinator, who added it was key for the celebrations to stay true to what the volunteer winners desired for their individual recognition events.

Foss, who is president of the Free Pantry Society, is also involved in the Historical Society in Raymond, along with the Skatepark Association and the library board. The former town councillor also contributes regularly to his church.

“They like to say volunteering is Stewart’s superpower,” said Lauwen.

That was evident during the celebration event, according to Weaver.

“He’s just very committed to his community,” she said. “When we went to his celebration it was very clear how many people he’s positively impacted in his community.”

As for the DO Crew, listing every little thing the youth group has been involved with in Taber would be nearly impossible.

“One of the main reasons they were selected was because of the many, many things they are involved with in Taber,” said Weaver, who highlighted the group’s work to build and install Taber’s very own Little Free Pantry.

The Crew has assisted with tutoring initiatives, helped with the town’s Easter Egg Hunt, been involved in McHappy Day and has volunteered at Clearview Lodge for senior’s events.

“They are a very recognizable group of youth in town,” said Weaver of the DO Crew, which includes Sophia Reyes, Felicity Johnston, Kennedy Planger, Alexis Baier, Kynlee Fallon, Zoey Villanueva and Cedd Domingo.

Van Liere volunteers at the Picture Butte Library three to four times a week and in fact, she’s there so often, that she’s naturally viewed as another employee.

“She loves books and she’s there a lot,” said Weaver. “It’s a well-suited volunteer initiative for her and it’s very clear that she’s passionate about books. It’s almost like she’s an extra staff member there.”

The volunteer awards and subsequent celebratory events were a first-time initiative for FCSS, but the hope is it will be even bigger next year.

“One thing we’d like to see is to have a few more nominations come in, because there are lots of volunteers that do great things in our comminutes that could be recognized,” said Lauwen.

Nominating a volunteer is easy, as nominators simply need to fill out a short form.

“The form is quick and easy. You basically just explain how amazing the person and provide some examples of that,” said Weaver, who added everyone who is nominated receives a certificate, while the winners take home a plaque, along with their celebratory events.

To learn more about this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Award Winners, please see the information below:

Stewart Foss – winner of the Outstanding Volunteer Award (Individual)

“I was raised in a house of volunteers. Both my parents volunteered in church and on community boards. My dad was a volunteer firefighter for over 40 years. My mom, right now, is serving on her community’s cemetery committee. They both instilled in me the idea that volunteering is foundational to being part of a community. My wife was raised with those same values, so as we started our life together it made it an important part of our family life too. I know from experience that many of the best things in my community, whether it is events or community services, exist because people are rolling up their sleeves and putting in some volunteer time to make them happen. The world has no shortage of good ideas, but it takes volunteers willing to put in effort to make those things happen.”

“It is an honour and humbling. It means a lot to me. I think it is important to recognize people who do good things. That said, I’m pretty uncomfortable with the spotlight being shined on me. I look forward to seeing who gets highlighted in years to come because as I look around my town, I see dozens and dozens of people who put in countless hours giving back in church and community groups, sports associations or serving on town committees. Volunteers are so important to the success of any community, but they are often unsung and unheralded for their efforts. “I really appreciate FCSS for recognizing and supporting volunteering.”

Taber Youth DO Crew – Outstanding Volunteer Award (Group) – Sophia Reyes, Felicity Johnston, Kennedy Planger, Alexis Baier, Kynlee Fallon, Zoey Villanueva and Cedd Domingo

Kynlee Fallon: “Volunteering is important to me because it allows for me to get experience from every event I help with. It also lets me meet new people, have new opportunities and explore my community better! Getting this award means that we have helped our community in some way, and I’m happy that we are given the chance to lend a hand to those who need it!”

Alexis Baier: “Volunteering is important to me as it allows me to be more involved with my community and the activities that occur throughout the Town. Receiving the award allows me to realize how much our volunteering helps others and how impactful it can be.”

Sophia Reyes: “Volunteering is important to me because I value my community. We all need each other’s help and volunteering fosters a culture of collaboration and wholesomeness. I also want to influence the next generation to be more empathetic and work towards a “we” mentality and not a “me” mentality. Receiving the Outstanding Volunteer Award means a lot to me because it serves as a beacon of hard-work, hope, and integrity. In addition to that, it is proof that every small effort adds up and that when we come together as volunteers, a huge impact can be made on the world around us!”

Felicity Johnston: “Volunteering is important to me because I find it really rewarding to help others. I love helping my community, there is always something that can be done, and I love that I can be one of the people that can help make my community a better place. This award means a lot to me because it’s nice to get recognition for the work that I’ve been doing for years now. All of us, as a team, do a really good job at making sure we all have a ton of fun as well as do as much as we can for our Town.”

Adriena Van Liere – Outstanding Volunteer Award (Youth)

“I really enjoy the work I do at the Picture Butte Library, the people I work with are awesome, and I also enjoy the interaction with the community. I’m not usually very outgoing so this helps me get out and talk to other people more. I think it’s really cool to win this award because it was completely unexpected and it’s awesome to know that the work I do is appreciated.”

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