The Regional District of East Kootenay has announced their 2021 Electoral Area Volunteers of the Year.
This year’s recipients are Kristina Bursey from Area A, Walter Semeniuk from Area B, Al Freeze from Area C, Sharon Prinz from Area E, Doug Charlton from Area F and Phyllis Christensen from Area G.
RDEK Board Chair Rob Gay says that the RDEK is always impressed with the level of volunteerism shown in the region year after year.
“The 2021 award recipients have contributed to our rural communities in so many ways. Publicly thanking them for their efforts and generosity is our way of recognizing the impact they have made to make the East Kootenay such a great place to live,” said Gay.
He adds that the efforts of this year’s recipients will be felt for many years, from keeping community halls running smoothly to providing bicycles to some of of Canada’s newest residents.
“From search and rescue training through to trail stewardship and outdoor recreational clubs, this year’s volunteers of the year are continually making a difference,” Gay said.
The RDEK provided a background on each award recipient. They are as follows:
Area A – Kristina Bursey
Bursey is heavily involved in the Valley Riders Equestrian Club, the snowmobile club, young people’s archery as well as PAC and other activities. She is the secretary-treasurer of the snowmobile club and takes a leading roll organizing events such as ‘Snow-a-Rama’.
As treasurer of the Valley Riders, Bursey runs the twice weekly horse play games and works extensively at the grounds. Bursey is also deeply involved with the youth in Area A.
“The broad reaching volunteer efforts of Kristina truly contribute to the betterment of the Elk Valley. The time she spends with the youth of this valley will undoubtedly be felt for years to come,” said Area A Director, Mike Sosnowski.
Area B – Walter Semeniuk
Semeniuk moved to Jaffray nearly 70 years ago to work for Galloway Lumber. He met and married his wife there, and they raised their children in the area. Semeniuk has been a long-time and deeply devoted member of the Jaffray Lions Club and Sand Creek Seniors. He was a past president of the Sand Creek Seniors and took care of the maintenance of the hall for many years.
“Walter shows the true attitude of volunteerism. A long-time member of both the Lions Club and Sand Creek Seniors, his presence is a lasting part of our community. Congratulations Walter,” said Area B Director, Stan Doehle.
Area C – Al Freeze
Freeze has been an outdoor recreation and trail advocate since the 1970s, when he moved to the Elk Valley.
Since retiring to Cranbrook in the mid 2000s, he has been volunteering with the local outdoor recreation community. For a number of years he used his own equipment to groom the South Star cross country ski trails and is still active in their volunteer program.
Since retirement, he has regularly volunteered to maintain and repair backcountry trails for both BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
Since 2016 Freeze has volunteered to supervise the contract labour crew during the construction of the Chief Isadore Trail. He and his family members have been responsible for the clearing of the Chief Isadore Trail every spring since it opened. Freeze continues a busy schedule of volunteer trail projects. Already this year he has groomed trails at South Star, spent countless days clearing downed trees off the Chief Isadore this past winter and spring, as well as replaced a damaged gate and two bridges on the Lost/Sunken Creek trail for Recreation Sites and Trails BC. He is always ready to donate his labour and equipment for a public trail project.
“Hikers, cyclists, cross-country skiers, cyclists and nature lovers off all kinds owe a great debt of gratitude to Al. His work is far-reaching and has immeasurably contributed to the recreational paradise that we live in,” said Area C Director, Rob Gay.
Area E – Sharon Prinz
A retired nurse, Prinz keeps her finger on the pulse of Wasa through her countless hours of volunteer work in a variety of community organizations.
As chair of the Wasa Lake Land Improvement District for the past 4 years, she contributes to the community by caring for the lake and working cooperatively with government authorities such as Regional District of East Kootenay, BC Lake Stewardship Society, and others.
As a trustee, she participates in the annual Shoreline Cleanup and Adopt a Highway. Prinz serves on the Emergency Support Services team offering assistance to people in times of large scale emergencies such as flood and wildfire. She is an invaluable member of the Wasa Volunteer Fire Prevention and Suppression group. Prinz has been a member of the Wasa Lions for many years, currently serving as secretary-treasurer. She is a tireless fundraiser for the Lions and helps manage the Medical Loan Cupboard.
“The community of Wasa is all the better because of the tireless efforts of Sharon. Her depth of knowledge and willingness to jump right in are appreciated by all. Thank you for all you do Sharon,” said Area E Director, Jane Walter.
Area F – Doug Charlton
Charlton refurbishes bicycles that were destined for the dump and gets them into the hands of people who can not afford them. He makes regular trips to Calgary to gift the bikes to refugees that have recently arrived in Canada, as well as to many families throughout the Columbia Valley. Already this year more than 400 bicycles have been handed out to happy recipients after being carefully repaired in his backyard shop.
“Doug is an inspiration. His boundless energy and desire to help those in need is infectious. With volunteers like him calling the Columbia Valley home, I know that we are in a good place,” said Area F Director, Susan Clovechok.
Area G – Phyllis Christensen
Christensen has lived in Edgewater almost all of her life.
As a young married woman she belonged to the Edgewater United Church Women’s Evening Circle – a service organization which catered to special events and overall improved the quality of life for young marrieds in the community. Over the years Christensen was involved in the 4H Club as a leader specializing in public speaking. When the board of the Edgewater Community Hall decided to renovate the hall, Christensen was on the executive committee and was a tireless worker in fundraising and the actual labour of renovation.
She stayed on the committee for many years, during which time The Base Youth Centre was instituted in the hall basement. She was instrumental in forming the successful Edgewater PAC which she chaired for the first few years of its existence.
In 2001, when her parents, Walter and Vera, moved into assisted living quarters Christensen stepped into her mother’s role as secretary to the Edgewater Seniors. A position which she very capably holds to this day.
Because of her knowledge of the local scene, Christensen was recruited to the first board of the Steamboat Mountain Music Society and served for the first several years of its existence as vendor convenor at the annual Steamboat Mountain Music Festival. Her knowledge of the available local pool of skills helped ensure the success of the music festival. A number of years ago, she joined the Edgewater Radium Health Care Auxiliary and has served as secretary. Phyllis has been a loving and supportive daughter, wife, and mother who successfully raised a family of six, a staunch community supporter, a faithful friend and a voice of reason and fairness within her community.
“Phyllis’s long running volunteer contributions have truly built up the community of Edgewater. Thanks you for all you do Phyllis, this is a well deserved award,” said Area G Director, Gerry Wilkie.