Volunteer contributions to Ponoka’s youth recognized

Some Ponoka organizations for youth would not exist if it wasn’t for the volunteers and all of them were recognized recently.

Volunteer and mentor Helen Hagemann

Volunteer and mentor Helen Hagemann

Some Ponoka organizations for youth would not exist if it wasn’t for the volunteers and all of them were recognized recently.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Ponoka, the Boys and Girls Club of Wolf Creek and the Ponoka Youth Centre hosted a volunteer appreciation night on April 11 to help celebrate all that the volunteers have done for the groups over the years. The evening featured a guest speaker talking about mentorship along with a story about how the programs made a difference in the life of one individual.

However, it also included presentation of the 2017 Heart and Soul awards given to volunteers that have been with the organizations for 10 years or longer as and one special award.

One individual has been putting in the time to volunteer with local youths for 20 years and isn’t looking to stop anytime soon.

Helen Hagemann got into the volunteer habit with a number of others, including her husband, and explained the experience has been wonderful. “It’s been a great experience for me and I think it’s been just as good for the the youth as well,” she said.

“They think of me more a bit like a grandmother, someone they can talk to and click with.”

Hagemann added that by giving back, she feels she is providing someone with a chance by doing good things for them. She also hopes to keep volunteering for as long as she can.

Another long time volunteer is Heather Patterson, who has been involved for 14 years, and she feels the BBBS mentorship program has been a benefit to the community.

“Developing the mentorship program to where it is now takes time and I think it’s a big strength of the community,” she said, adding any of the youth programs couldn’t be offered with the volunteers the groups have.

Patterson has been a mentor to a young boy since he was in Grade 1 and now he is in Grade 10.

“It’s been a rewarding time and interesting seeing him grow into the young man he is today. It’s been a really neat experience,” she stated.

“It may sound hokey, but I receive so much back in the relationship. I think all of us need to know someone out there cares and I want to be that someone to bring a little light into what can be a very hard world.

And for Patterson, volunteering is also about giving back.

“But, the best place to look around is where you are and find the good things that you can do. Even as a parent, you can’t be everything for your kids and you can’t be there for everyone. It doesn’t have to be anything big either. It can be something as small as being kind to someone in a store.”

A special volunteer was honoured with a special award during the evening.

Tony Ruijsch was presented with the Mike Meindertsma award, handed out to a long time volunteer for their dedication, selflessness and commitment to building upon the overall vision and mission of the three agencies.

The award is named in honour of a special and passionate volunteer, who passed away nine years ago, and was presented to Ruijsch by Beth Reitz, executive director, and Mike’s parents Harry and Anneke.

The other volunteers honoured for their long service were: 13 years Joziena Meyer and Jerel Peters; 12 years Joyce McDowell and Nienke Palsma; 11 years Cheryl Ruggles and Allie Busch; and 10 years Leah Forde.