Fort St. John celebrates community builders at annual awards

Fort St. John's best citizens and community groups were honoured at the city's 11th annual community awards ceremony at the Lido Theatre April 19.

The gala evening recognized the achievements made by local community builders in the fields of literacy, culture, youth, recreation, humanitarian work, and citizen of the year.

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The city saw a record 88 nominations for 70 individuals and organizations this year, numbers that amazed and overwhelmed the nomination committee. 

"It's exciting for us to be part of this," said Coun. Gord Klassen, one of the four tasked with judging the nominations.

"It's amazing to be able to be part of seeing what our community is about."

Though only a handful were slated to win awards, Fort St. John is built in large part by its volunteers, Coun. Larry Evans said.

“There are thousands of people in this city that volunteer one way or the other,” Evans said.

This year's winners are:

Literacy - Kim Boettcher

Jane Drew accepted the award of Boettcher's behalf, for her literacy work in School District 60. 

Literacy opens doors to a better future, Drew said, reading from a speech prepared by Boettcher. And those doors are opened by all the teachers and support staff who work in the school district. 

"When we work collectively in the area of literacy, everyone benefits," Drew said on behalf of Boettcher.

Culture - Catherine Ruddell

Megan Ruddell accepted the award on her sister's behalf.

Though Ruddell recently announced she was leaving Fort St. John and her post as co-ordinator of Peace Gallery North, the city will always be home in her heart, Megan said.

Ruddell encouraged residents to take part in their community, and to share their ideas with one another.

"When I see new and truly exciting ideas, I think, how can we make this work in Fort St. John?" Ruddell said in prepared remarks.

"The community is yours to create."

Youth - Hunter Faminow

A Grade 12 student, Faminow is in his sixth year taking part on the city's youth advisory council, and is ever present in the School District 60 band.

"Keep volunteering," was Faminow's simple message of thank you to the crowd.

Recreation - Crystal Cup Organizing Committee

The annual pond hockey tournament at Charlie Lake is coming off its biggest and most financially successful year yet. 

The committee gave a presentation about its work prior to winning its award, with Neil Evans noting one common denominator drives them all: a passion for hockey.

The best advice Evans had for organizations was to build their volunteer base around people with shared passions — and keeping a stock of fresh cold beer nearby, he joked.

Hours and hours and labour go into planning the tournament every year, Evans said, and good people help carry each other through hard work.

"Find the people who are just as passionate about the topic as you are," Evans said.

Humanitarian - North Peace Seniors Housing Society

The society operates four apartments that house 144 seniors in the community, Tony Zabinsky said in accepting the award.

Seniors housing is in constant demand in the community, he said, and for good reason. 

“You want to know why that is?” Zabinsky asked.

“Our forefathers, our parents are coming back to this community because you guys are making this a great place to be. Without you guys creating this need and want to be here, they wouldn’t come back here."

Citizen of the Year - Adam Reaburn

Reaburn, who owns and operates Moose FM, was recognized for his contributions through the radio station organizing movies in the park and the downtown block party, and volunteering his time with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Tourism Fort St. John, to name a few. 

The award win was about the 14 people who work at the radio station, Reaburn said, and who help make it possible for him to do what he sets out to do.

“The community has allowed us to operate for coming on 15 years now,” he said.

The gala evening featured performances by Adam Winn, and former CFL star Doug Petersen as a guest speaker. Petersen grew up in the Peace and returned home because of its strong sense of community. 

"My sense of identity is tied to this area," Petersen told the sold-out crowd, noting he knows his neighbours, his children's teachers and coaches.

The community opened his parents with open arms when they moved here, and in turn they became community builders, Petersen said — working in education and real estate, and volunteering with church, the Child Development Centre, and the Rod and Gun Club. 

"My parents came to Fort St. John to build a life, and I believe their story mirrors countless other families that came here as well," he said.

Mayor Lori Ackerman noted this year’s awards were being handed out during National Volunteer Week, a chance to recognize selfless acts by those who lend their time and skills to make their communities better.

Volunteers often say they get more than they give, through learning new skills and making meaningful connections with their neighbours, Ackerman said.

“Each and everyone has built this remarkable community we call home,” Ackerman said of the nominees.

“The magic of volunteering is that it creates social and economic value for all of us.”

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

community-awards-2018
Megan Ruddell (on behalf of Catherine Ruddell), Hunter Faminow, and Jane Drew (on behalf of Kim Boettcher), outside the community awards gala April 19, 2018. - Matt Preprost
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