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These volunteers are tops!

Even though Volunteer Appreciation Week is now behind us, volunteers continue to be appreciated throughout the rest of the month and beyond.
Shayne Kawalilak
Shayne Kawalilak

Even though Volunteer Appreciation Week is now behind us, volunteers continue to be appreciated throughout the rest of the month and beyond. Every time someone gives their time and energy to a cause that they believe in without receiving financial compensation for it, it's a reason to celebrated.

The Community Information and Volunteer Centre (CIVC) has announced the names of the four nominees for the 47th annual Volunteer Citizen of the Year Awards. Together, they have contributed countless thousands of hours to organizations throughout this city and beyond.

The ceremony takes place on Saturday, May 7 starting at 10 a.m. The program will include brunch and entertainment by the St. Albert Children's Theatre, plus the winners of the Leaders of Tomorrow Awards will be handed out at the same time.

Tickets are $25 each available and are available at the CIVC office located at #10-215 Carnegie Dr. Call 780–459-6666 or visit www. for more information. Deadline to purchase tickets is Friday, April 29.

Here are brief profiles of each of this year's nominees:

Dr. Alan Murdock

If culture is indeed the soul of a society, then Dr. Murdock has made it his mission to feed that soul as much as he possibly can.

With a volunteer résumé featuring the St. Albert Rotary Music Festival (of which he is the current chair and a longstanding member of the Rotary Club of St. Albert to boot), the St. Albert Chamber Music Society (of which he was a founding member), and the Arts and Heritage Foundation (where he previously served as chair), his name can easily be associated with all facets of visual and performing arts plus the preservation of heritage and historic buildings that are the very elements that tie our past to our present and future.

And he's been doing this for nearly 30 years, at least on the record. Despite all that hard work behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, he was still taken aback at the nomination.

“It's a big surprise! I'm touched … honoured,” he said. “I've been involved in a lot of things, mainly in the arts.”

He added that he and his late wife, Christene, have also leant much support over the years to the St. Albert Children's Theatre and also to the dance community here and through the Banff Centre. It all falls back on what he says is his personal motto: “There is no better way to build a community than to foster a love of the arts in our youth.”

Volunteering is a humbling and rewarding experience, he said, and necessary too.

“None of us gets anything down without living in a community which accepts volunteerism as a key component of being a citizen.”

Mary-Patricia O'Neill

The name is not unfamiliar to St. Albert's volunteer community, especially since there are two people who bear it. This ‘Mary O'Neill' is not the former politician but rather a vibrant and dedicated volunteer in her own right, one who has worked diligently with youths starting way back in the 1960s.

She was delighted to hear that she was nominated. In fact, it gave her a good laugh.

“I just chuckled actually. I thought, ‘Oh … good grief,'” she responded, giggling. “It's very, very nice.”

O'Neill first volunteered with the Brownies, an experience that led to her working with the Girl Guides where she would become the Area Commissioner, working to establish the Tamarac Area. She still stays in contact with her friends in Guiding as a member of the STARS retired guiders group.

The retired teacher has given her time to the Alberta Highland Dancers, the Retired Teachers' Association, the Association of Canadian Travellers, the Children's Festival, Senior Games, the Botanic Gardens, the Catholic Women's League Council and the executive council at Holy Family Parish, and numerous other organizations some of which involve her sporting passions of golf and curling. She also sings with two choir and minstrel groups. If she has any free time left, one must speculate as to whether she has invented time travel in order to accommodate it.

She noted that she was also honoured by the nomination and is humbled to be in the company of the other nominees.

Mavis McKay

Like so many other super volunteers that get nominated for the Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award, Mavis McKay has a list of accomplishments that stretches far and wide across the city most notably at the St. Albert 50-Plus Club. She's so involved in the club and its activities that she's practically the face of the place.

Her involvement is so famous in some places that some people say that she has always been involved. “That's my life!” she enthused. “I feel good doing it and I meet some really, really great people along the way. It's just a journey for me. I love the people.”

Her life as a volunteer started when she was an 18-year-old helping out with Canadian Girls in Training with the United Church. She has also been an elder with the Braeside Presbyterian Church for more than 35 years and has contributed greatly to the organization and activities of that church ever since. “I've done volunteering with my church forever,” she claimed.

McKay has also volunteered with the Rainbow Society to help children and adults through trauma, the Chrysalis Society to help adults with developmental disabilities, and helping out with the social activities at Chateau Mission Court as well.

“I was really surprised,” she said. “I don't feel worthy. There's a lot of people in St. Albert that do a lot more than I do.”

Shayne Kawalilak

The 12th St. Albert Scouts wouldn't be the same without Shayne Kawalilak. Starting as a Beaver Scouter just five years ago, he quickly became the group commissioner and is so involved in every aspect of the group and its activities that it's practically his second full-time job.

“My wife has complained for years that I spend way too much time volunteering,” he joked, “and then somebody calls up and says, ‘Hey, you're nominated for Volunteer Citizen of the Year!' Holy crap, maybe I do spend too much time volunteering…”

He revealed that his nomination was based solely on his work with the Scouts group but had nothing to do with his involvement with the Children's Festival and North Pointe Community Church. He estimated that he contributes probably 100 to 150 hours every month to various volunteer efforts.

“Except during the Children's Festival,” he clarified. “Just that week is over 70 hours. I've taken that whole week off of work and everything else every year for 14 years now.”

When asked why he's so dedicated to it, his response was an exuberant, “Have you been to that festival? It's awesome!”

“I like being around like-minded people and people that volunteer to help kids are my kind of people.”

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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