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Local volunteers recognized for years of service

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES
Dianne Mawdsley, left, Norma Leigh and Barbara Muscat were honoured at the Volunteer Service Awards recently for their combined 115 years of volunteering with the Hawkestone Women's Institute.

PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES Dianne Mawdsley, left, Norma Leigh and Barbara Muscat were honoured at the Volunteer Service Awards recently for their combined 115 years of volunteering with the Hawkestone Women's Institute.

More than 840 years of volunteer service in the area were marked recently.

The 2017 Volunteer Service Awards for the Orillia region were held at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club, honouring 83 volunteers from Simcoe County, southern Muskoka and beyond. The ceremony was one of 58 held in the province this year.

Of those 83 volunteers, three accounted for nearly 10% of the total volunteer years. Norma Leigh, Dianne Mawdsley and Barbara Muscat have given their time to the Hawkestone Women’s Institute for a combined 115 years.

Leigh had the most volunteer experience among her peers in the room. She’s been with the WI for 55 years.

“Isn’t that amazing, eh? She joined when she was four!” Muscat joked.

It’s was Leigh’s mother who got her involved with the Hawkestone group.

“She was a district president (and) area president. I had to go and listen to her give a speech, so I had to join to go,” she recalled. “I kept going, I guess. It’s a great place for friends and we do a lot.”

The camaraderie was evident among the three who were honoured, holding each others hands as they shared some of the projects they’ve been part of that they take so much pride in.

“We support the firefighters, we support the East Oro school ... schools in Orillia; we do a lot in the community,” Mawdsley said. “It’s just something you do because you enjoy it. For the firefighters, for instance, you can see what’s being done. Every one of them didn’t have a safety vest. They had some and they went to the fire hall. Well, (the volunteers) don’t all go to the fire hall when they’re going to an accident; they go to the accident.”

They also split their generosity between resources in Barrie and Orillia, given Hawkestone’s location almost directly in the middle of the two cities along Highway 11.

Muscat joined when she moved to the area.

“A neighbour of mine, when I moved into the area, got me involved in it and all of a sudden I met these ladies,” she said. “I was saying tonight, ‘I can’t believe I’ve been hanging around with you for 25 years.’ But you get very close knit and you do a lot of community work.”

Muscat has been volunteering nearly as long as Chris Hedley has been alive. His five years of volunteering with Helping Hands Orillia was also celebrated at the event.

Despite the gap in their age, Hedley shared another experience with Muscat: He started volunteering when he arrived in a new community.

“I came to Canada as an immigrant; I’m originally from Britain. It was a good way at the time to get to know the community,” he explained. “I work in the same field, so it’s nice to give back. I just enjoy doing it, and it’s just a great experience. I’ve learned a lot doing it. It’s a great opportunity.”

Hedley, 27, is at the cusp of a cohort Ninette Gyorody highlighted in her remarks as guest speaker. People between the ages of 29 and 59 are often those who can give the least amount of their time. However, according to Information Orillia, that generation of residents accounted for 65% of the inquires to its volunteer database in 2016, a statistic Gyorody called refreshing.

As executive director of the Orillia Museum of Art and History, she paints a bleak picture of where her institution would be without its 70 to 80 volunteers.

“I can’t even imagine what we’d do,” Gyorody said. “We’d probably do a lot less of our programming, a lot less of the functions that make us who we are and the vibrancy that we have. We just couldn’t do it.”

A pre-taped message from Laura Albanese, minister of citizenship and immigration, greeted the volunteers who attended the ceremony – about half of those eligible to do so.

The honourees came from a large area of central Ontario, forming a loose triangle between Bradford, Shelburne and Bracebridge. While time was allotted for greetings from any of the MPPs of those ridings – including Simcoe North, Barrie, York-Simcoe and Perry Sound-Muskoka – none attended.

pbales@postmedia.com

twitter.com/patrickbales 



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