Four people in town were recently nominated for an Award from Molson-Coors. I have been asked many questions about it including why I accepted it, especially when I don’t drink. So here’s the scoop.
First what was the award all about? The Town of Tillsonburg’s Special Awards Committee, May 2nd minutes, slightly edited, explains: Mayor Molnar spoke to the item updating the Committee on details of the request from Molson, recognizing four individuals from this community, for being true Canadians. The Committee selected individuals and - following much discussion- they passed that Bill Pratt, Pat Carroll, Evan Van Moerkerke and myself would be nominated for the Molson Canadian Project, in celebration of Canada 150.
The four of us were nominated, perhaps for the red fridges, I don’t know and no one explained that part, but for being nominated what we did get was a very nice wooden beer box, inscribed with Molson’s and 150th logos, and to quote from the lid: “We are all members of a larger community, which depends upon everyone playing their part” - John Molson 1786. This case of Molson Canadian is our thanks to you. A thank you for living with great Canadian Character and for playing your part in making our communities and our country the best in the world. We hope you share this with the great people in your life and enjoy a special celebration in a special year for Canada. Let’s all raise a Canadian together. Inside there were two Molson beer glasses, coasters, bottle opener and six stubby beers. It has been a pleasure giving my beer away. Oh, no one asked if I drank beer or not!
The hard question was why I accepted the award at all. In every group I have been in, I have always believed in and tried to thank volunteers who give so much, making them feel worthwhile and if nothing else, pat them on the back or if possible give them an award or even a thank you card. Treat your volunteers well and you will keep them and usually get more.
The Town was trying to thank us. It is getting harder and harder to find volunteers who will give their time, money energy and too often their tears to make a project come to fruition and that is probably twice as hard for people like Evan who is an Olympic Swimmer. Mom always said when someone says something nice about yourself, just say ‘Thank You.’
Beside each of us receiving the award, although invisible that day, stood all the people in the various groups, associations, friends and family, who have constantly helped us achieve the goals for whatever project we have worked on. Unfortunately we were not given the option of thanking anyone for the award and for those who worked hard beside us and should share our honour. I was very please when Pat Carroll, the last up, grasped the microphone and gave thanks. I know he spoke for the rest of us too.
What I would have said? I would have liked to tell people who have physical obstacles or health problems of any kind, that you can still volunteer somewhere. I had to give up working in my early 30s so I kept myself busy painting pictures and trying to do research before you could Google anything. I had to give up a lot of things over the years, but found other places to give and help. Can you answer a phone? Can you look up information for others on a computer? Can you take information and write it up? Can you learn about something then share the knowledge with others?
Maybe you can’t walk or ride in a Kidney or Cancer fundraiser, but can you sit and take tickets, hand out name tags, tell people where the washrooms are? The people at the top who get the accolades know they are only there by the grace of those whose Herculean efforts, financial or physical, put them there.
Receiving that award gave attention to Theatre Tillsonburg, Annandale National Historical Site, The Tillsonburg and District Historical Society Pioneers, and Wildlife Rehabilitators.
Three of the four of us receiving the award have also been Citizen of the Year - Bill Pratt 1980, myself 1994, and Pat 1996. It may have been the reason the Town chose us for it was specifically mentioned in the address that even after decades of serving our community, we deserved being honoured again.
I can tell you that all four of us were very honoured and although it sounds cliché, humbled to be chosen. If you think we do what we do for the awards, you know nothing of us, or any other volunteer. We do it because it needs doing and we have a passion to make sure others can take advantage of, or perhaps be inspired, to join the sport, the Kinsmen Club, Lake Lisgar Revitalization, The Carroll Trail.
I know Bill Pratt didn’t like having his name in so many articles about the Cancer Ride N Stride, but after 60 years volunteering for cancer fundraisers, if using his name will get free advertising and publicity and gain more for the cause, he and we, will do it and suffer the teasing and comments we get.
But as a friend said, perhaps the Awards Committee could honour more younger volunteers, like Evan, to inspire more their age to help.