It will be another subdued year for honouring volunteers in Langley Township, thanks to ongoing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every spring in normal times, the Township hosted a banquet to thank volunteers, and gave out three awards – the Eric Flowerdew Volunteer Award for someone who enhances Langley’s quality of life, the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award, to a young person who shows exemplary achievements in the athletic and academic spheres, and the John and Muriel Arnason Award, which honours a duo, whether married, friends, or partners in a cause, who volunteer together.
Last year’s award winners were:
• Nigel Easton, who won the Eric Flowerdew Award for years of volunteering with curling groups and local environmental causes
• Carol Paulson and Dave Melnychuk won the John and Muriel Arnason Award for founding the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation
• Prabhasha Wickramaarachchi won the Pete Swensson award, with top marks in class at Walnut Grove Secondary as well as a busy schedule as a competitive member of the Gators’ track team
“Every volunteer is a worthy recipient,” said Township Mayor Jack Froese, who noted that every year, the volunteers are modest about their achievements.
Because of the pandemic, this will be the second year that Froese and other Township officials hand out the awards in private, distanced ceremonies.
The awards are expected to be given out later this month, and nominations officially closed on March 1.
All the awards go to people who volunteer within the Township, with any organization.
This has been a difficult year for volunteering, with fewer opportunities in many areas, Froese noted.
Large public events that used to draw dozens or hundreds of volunteers have been largely shut down. Parades, festivals, and major sporting events were all shut down because mass gatherings were too dangerous while COVID-19 was spreading in 2020 and into this year.
Many seniors, often the backbone of volunteering projects, pulled back because they were more vulnerable to COVID-19, and public-facing volunteer positions were too dangerous.
“Yet there have been other volunteer opportunities that have come up,” said Froese.
The Swensson and Flowerdew awards have both seen plenty of award nominations this year.
But Froese said that there weren’t any nominations this year for the John and Muriel Arnason Award, and he’s encouraging people to contact the Township if they know of a duo who should be recognized.
Even past volunteering efforts can be recognized, Froese said, it doesn’t have to be work done in 2020.
The winners for all three awards are expected to be chosen by the end of April, and the quiet award ceremonies are likely to be held at the Township Civic Facility on 65th Avenue, as happened last year.
Froese said he is hoping that next year, there will again be a banquet to honour the volunteers.
“I think we are all looking for causes to celebrate, to get together with people,” the mayor said.