I was fortunate to grow up and still live in a world with very strong role models. Growing up in a family of twelve, losing our dad when there were still seven at home, it was a crazy busy childhood. Maybe that’s why I still crave being busy and yet can still cherish those quiet moments.
Our family is a true reflection of that saying: “it takes a community to raise a child”. I grew up in an era where it was easy to become independent as a child. It was safe to send me to the store to pick up groceries needed for lunch or leave the house to play in the morning and never check in until supper. If I did something wrong or went somewhere I shouldn’t go, my mom knew it before I arrived home. It was not unusual for me or my siblings to be disciplined or reminded of our manners by other adults.
I never thought as my mom as being a strong person at that time. Now, even knowing she had outside help or the chores we all had to do before sports activities, I know how challenging life must have been. She had to be strong. Days before my mom passed away, the doctors met with her and talked to he about her condition and her choices. She made the choice of no extraordinary measures and never faltered in her faith and her resolve. That was one more thing she did for her family and showed the true strength of our mom.
I come from a family of volunteers. Most have been involved in various fraternities and always worked at community events. Doing the chicken dinner at Harvey fair days was one of our family traditions and I remember those days fondly. I can still here “Chicken, come and get your chicken” ringing in my head.
My dad was a volunteer. My brothers and sisters have chosen to contribute in so many areas that are personal to them: volunteering at animal sanctuaries, community municipal positions, leadership roles at church, community boards, community dinners, fundraisers, Red Cross, Ability NB, education related, sports related; the list goes on. I married into a family of volunteers. While my mother-in- law chose things related to her love of curling, golfing and politics, my father-in-law chose SPCA, Rotary, ODD Fellows and other fraternal organizations. Stuart of course has been involved in so many organizations, sometimes seven boards at once while working full time. Ducks Unlimited, Nature Trust, nursing home board, Kings Landing, Chamber of Commerce, national and regional organizations related to the office products industry, Lake Associations and again the list goes on.
As a teenager the Recreation Centre was being built and a focal point in my life. While there were so many that I think involved in the donation of land, resources and time to build it, I think often of Jennie Fletcher and Fran Little working the door at dances knowing if I misbehaved in any manner they would know and there would be repercussions. Jennie offered her basement to my first volunteer work, Secretary of the Kindness Club. There were as many strong women role models as there were male role models.
I look around my community (and every other one in NB) and know without volunteer Fire Departments, Lions Clubs, Masonic Lodges, Curling Clubs, Churches, recreation centres, Skating/Hockey rinks, craft guilds, health and community services, and all those other organizations, we would not have communities. We would not have families returning “home” to live. Our communities are built on the life blood of volunteers. It is community that makes us proud of where we grow up and want to be part of something great. I like being able to say New Brunswick is a great place to grow up.
So, I could sit by and hope other people hold the values of strong family, strong community the same way I do, or I can be involved. I look around now and see younger people (Younger being a relative term) stepping forward and being community leaders, leading change and feel nothing but pride. Many are following in the steps of great role models in their family and community. They make me want to be part of that change. Yes, sometimes I say, “I am going to back off doing a few of those volunteer things”, and then another great cause or need comes along and now here I am, ready for the next challenge.