It was a full gymnasium at the Rec Centre last week as the Goulds Recreation Association presented certificates to some of the 91 local youths who were nominated for their volunteer work in the community.
Local MHAs John Dinn and Keith Hutchings helped present the certificates at the event, which coincided with the celebration of National Youth Week.
“The goal of youth week is to celebrate youth, their achievements and their commitment to their communities,” said Nicole Chaytor, the recreation coordinator with the Goulds Recreation Association. “Youth Week also gives us an opportunity to recognize and give back to the youth who have given so much to their communities through their volunteer efforts. And that’s what the Goulds Recreation Commission wanted to do: we wanted to recognize the volunteer efforts put forward by the youth of the Goulds and the youths attending our schools.”
Chaytor said the efforts of local youths are part of the picture when it comes to assessing what makes the Goulds a great place to live and its schools great to attend. “Their volunteering is very important for many reasons,” she said.
People of all ages volunteer, Chaytor said, but when a youth does it, is special because “you are looking at a young person who is being unselfish in his her life.”
Volunteering offers young people a chance to socialize, help others and support causes they believe in, she added.
“In the end, it comes down to the fact that they know they are needed and that the people directly affected by their work are deeply appreciative of it,” Chaytor said. “Youth who volunteer for the right reasons… are our future. Through volunteering, they learn that their existence is important and they can make a difference in the world around them.”
The chairperson of the Goulds Recreation Association, Michelle Downey, echoed those thoughts. “Many, many eons ago I was one of you,” Downey joked. “I was a youth. I started at St. Kevin’s with an Allied Youth program.”
Dabbling in Allied Youth led to involvement in other volunteer activities, said Downey, who credited the teachers and staff of St. Kevin’s for their support back then. “And I know they continue to do so today, they encourage all types of volunteerism in the school and they give a lot of their time for you guys,” she added. “It’s a trickle down type of situation – the people you help will hopefully volunteer as well, your friends and members of your family.”
You don’t have to be part of a formal organization to be a volunteer, Downey argued. There are many individual initiatives that youths undertake on their own, such as shovelling an older person’s driveway,that constitutes volunteerism.
“The joy that I get from volunteering is a big part of my life,” Downey said. “I receive tenfold what I give. I wouldn’t be here tonight if I wasn’t involved in the community, I wouldn’t have the friends I have, if I hadn’t been volunteering the community. So I want to thank you all here tonight and encourage you to keep on the path of volunteering for many years to come… You can certainly make a difference in your community.”
Kilbride MHA John Dinn, who probably has one of the longest and most diverse resumes as a volunteer in the province, also praised the efforts of the students.
“Volunteerism is very important,” said Dinn. “If you took all the volunteers in the Goulds, you would probably need the old (Memorial) Stadium to put them in, because I think we have more volunteers here than anywhere, because we have more things on the go here in the Goulds than anywhere else. And that’s what makes us special here in the Goulds.”
Helping people is very important, said Dinn. “Because the day is coming when you are going to apply for something and have a resume done. And if you can write down that you volunteered, it’s very, very important.”
Dinn said he recently supplied a reference for a young woman in Kilbride who was applying for Medical School. She contacted him a couple of weeks ago, he noted, and said the volunteer activities she had listed on her resume seemed to make the difference in getting accepted.
“It’s very important,” Dinn repeated. “So keep up the good work, and thanks for the work you do. I’m sure you are helping a lot of people.”
Ferryland MHA Keith Hutchings said volunteers play an integral part in their communities. “I always say that governments and agencies can make bricks and mortar into buildings and that sort of thing, but it’s our volunteers who really make our communities and make our regions. So congratulations to you for everything you do.”
Hutchings, who is the Minister of Municipal Affairs, pointed out the theme of Municipal Awareness Week this year is youth leadership. “I certainly encourage you now and in the future to think about getting involved in municipal politics and politics in general, or any kind of civic engagement in your communities,” he said, “because the youth perspective is so important in terms of policy development and building for the future.”
Ward 5 councillor Wally Collins said he supported what all the previous speakers had to say.
“Volunteers make up the community,” he agreed. “And the more young people who do it, the better. John said it earlier: There’s more going on here in the Goulds than in any other community… So I wish you all luck and congratulations.”
The young people receiving the certificates were drawn from a bevy of groups including the Goulds Leo Club, Girl Guides, Goulds Hoopsters, St. Kevin’s Parish, St. Paul’s Parish, St. Kevin’s Allied Youth Community Post, the 4H Challenging Pioneers, among others. The youths who were recognized included: