Ponoka thrives on volunteers and is taking part in the celebrations of National Volunteer week from April 27 to May 3. Across Canada there are 12 million volunteers that give their time to make their community better for everyone to live in. A 2004 report Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteer and Participating shows volunteers contribute two billon hours or one million full-time jobs according to the Volunteer Canada website. The survey also reported that 11 per cent of Canadians accomplish 77 per cent of the volunteer work that is done.
Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkelman thinks that Ponoka has many great volunteer organizations such as the library, Family and Community Support Services, the museum and so many other worthwhile groups.
“Every community is comprised of citizens but what makes a community successful and being a safe and stable community has a lot to do with their volunteers and how they get involved,” said Henkelman. “In order to keep everything functioning it takes a lot of volunteers, for example, our stampede volunteers make our stampede world renown. If it wasn’t for volunteers it wouldn’t be what it is.”
He also notes that you can see the volunteerism in action in our community by the fact that all of our recreation complexes and most of our parks are named after or built by community groups.
Ponoka has numerous volunteer organizations in the community ranging from the Ponoka Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, to the Kinsmen Club and the Lions Club who all put in countless hours.
The Ponoka Youth Centre has 50 volunteers who put in thousands of hours each year with programs such as the after school programs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Drop-In Centre.
“We wouldn’t be able to exist without volunteers,” said executive director Beth Reitz. “Volunteers are vitally important for us.”
The local 4-H Clubs have 20 volunteers who in the last year have put in approximately 2,000 volunteer hours with such community programs as Project Porchlight, the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce Christmas party, serving at the Chamber gala and a soup kitchen and the highway clean up.
Head leader for the East Ponoka 4-H Beef club Joyce Winter thinks it is important to invest time in the youth of our community.
“These are our future leaders. If we show we are willing to volunteer, they in turn, will volunteer,” said Winter. “They will keep the community viable and it makes them learn respect for the community. Our community would not be what it is today without volunteers.”
In 2007, at the Northcott Care Centre over 110 individuals put in 1,000 hours of their time. They helped out at special events, provided music and entertainment, helped out with games nights, plant care, teas and bake sales.
Wes Amendt volunteer coordinator at Northcott feels that volunteers are a vital part of the service that is provided to the residents.
“A common theme in health care right now is the shortage of staff. Having volunteers helping becomes even more important in providing our residents with the best quality of life,” said Amendt.
Recently Northcott volunteers were honoured with service pins; Adelle Abt, Gerry Fillinger and Patty Hettler received their 100 hour pins, Otto Bracnhmann, Ashley Lamey and Mandi Staples received their 200 hour pins, George Wheatley and Richard Adams received their 300 hour pins and Marie Olson received her 700 hour pin.
At the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre there are 42 volunteers who gave 4,995 hours to fundraising and other efforts over the past year.
National Volunteer week first started in 1943 to turn public attention to women contributing to the war effort on the home front and in the late 1960s it was re-focused to include all community volunteers.
The Ponoka Volunteer Appreciation Event will be held May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Kinsmen Community Centre with special guest speaker Spencer Beach who will be speaking about “Turning Demons into Diamonds.”