StephenVance 270There's something in the water in Meaford that produces fantastic volunteers. I began suspecting so not long after I moved to Meaford more than a dozen years ago.

In fact, there is so much volunteer activity in this town that it's here that I developed a true appreciation for the value of volunteers. Prior to moving here, I had done my share of volunteering – or so I had thought. I had helped out on election campaigns in the '80s and '90s, I had taken part in community cleanup initiatives from time to time, but being wrapped up in family and career, the amount of time I had available for volunteering was fairly limited.

Once in Meaford, I found the volunteer spirit here to be contagious, and I have been inspired by my friends and neighbours in this town who frequently offer their services for a wide range of initiatives. I have written before about our amazing culture of volunteering in Meaford, but I was reminded again this week when Meaford resident Mary Woods was presented with the Governor General's Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

While Mary is perhaps best known for her never-ending work with the annual Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival, like many of our volunteers she has for many years found ways to contribute to her community, and to be honoured with a prestigious award like the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers is well earned indeed.

Mary is part of a rather large contingent of community-minded souls who take time out of their regular lives to help out in any way they can, whether it be stocking shelves at the food bank or delivering meals on wheels. Without our huge roster of volunteers many community events simply wouldn't happen. Imagine the state of our hospital had volunteers not rallied together over the years to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment – events like the upcoming Harbour Run/Walk in support of the hospital foundation wouldn't be possible without an entire team of volunteers. The same could be said for many of our Canada Day events, or even the care of the many trails that we can enjoy in our area.

What people like Mary Woods have taught me over the past many years is that volunteers are crucial, and they deserve to be acknowledged and even honoured as often as possible, but more importantly, people like Mary have taught me that it is important for all of us to do our part and to find a way to volunteer some time for the betterment of the community at large. Some of my most rewarding experiences in this town have come from my volunteering experiences, and it is through those volunteer experiences that I have met some of the most fantastic people whom I might not have otherwise bumped into.

This is certainly a community worthy of the expenditure of some personal time in order to help us to continue to thrive. It is because of the importance of volunteers that we have been publishing a multi-part series in our print paper focused on volunteer opportunities in this community. Once you embark on such a project, you really see just how many volunteer organizations and opportunities are taking place in this community. In part one of the series we explored local service clubs, and in the second part we delved into foundations and boards, and there is much more to come as the series explores all of the various ways you can volunteer some time in this community.

When the medal was presented to Mary in the council chamber on Monday, her family with their proud beaming smiles were present, as were dozens of Meaford's army of volunteers who had attended to see one of their own, one of our own honoured.

Congratulations to Mary, the honour is well deserved, and to all of Meaford's many volunteers, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for all that you do, and for the inspiration you provided to folks like me who sometimes need a reminder that there is much reward to be found in giving of yourself to your friends and neighbours and to the community that provides such a wonderful quality of life.

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