Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Deep in the Heart of Wood Buffalo

It wasn't because I had oodles of free time, as anyone who knows me knows I am busier now than I have ever been. The challenges of being a single parent, holding a full-time and fulfilling professional role, working as a freelance writer and the daily tasks of life are really enough to keep me quite occupied - and yet in 2014 I decided I would get just a bit more involved in my community, and I applied to join the committees and boards of two local organizations.

The Communities in Bloom Committee was one that had caught my interest some time ago, as it is about so much more than "pretty flowers" and instead about the concepts of environmentalism, sustainability and neighbourhood cleanliness as well as encouraging horticultural pursuits. Joining the committee is my opportunity to not only learn more about what the organization does but to help them achieve their goals. The second organization I joined was the Board of Directors of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, a group that has been close to me since this blog began and that is likely where I truly began to understand the nature of social profit organizations and their fundamental value in our community.

I thought a great deal about my journey of learning about social profit organizations when I attended the Heart of Wood Buffalo Leadership Awards this week. I was honoured to present an award as part of my role on the board at the Food Bank, but even more so I was honoured to be in the company of the many people who work tirelessly in our social profit sector.

There were apparently dozens of nominees for the awards, narrowed down to a select group of nominees in each of the six categories and then finally, as announced on that night, the winner - but the reality is that while some won an award that evening and were recognized for their hard work I think we should take the opportunity every day to acknowledge the work of those who volunteer for boards and committees, those who work directly in and for our social profit groups, the businesses and companies who commit their resources and employees to social profit causes and those who spend their precious free time volunteering.

The busiest people I know are volunteers, you see. They don't do it because they have tons of free time or because they have nothing else to do - often they are going flat out in their jobs and lives but they volunteer because they know it makes a difference, both to others and themselves. The people I know who work in social profit organizations don't do so for the pay cheque, which is often far less than what they could earn in similar positions in industry; they do so because they believe in their cause, their organization and the need of the community. The businesses and companies who donate their time or money to social profit organizations do so because they know the organizations improve the quality of life for those in the community where they operate their business. Those who serve on boards and committees give of their time to provide support to the organizations because they know they can offer their collective skills to help make the organizations even stronger.

It was a bit remarkable for me on Thursday evening to realize I knew or at the very least recognized almost every single person who filtered into the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts at Holy Trinity. These individuals, who serve on boards or work in our community social profit organizations, who work for the companies that support them and who volunteer every time the call to action is heard, have become part of my life over the past 4 years as I have developed more and more respect and admiration for each of them. I have come to realize that they serve as the backbone of our community, and they are the organizations and people who are there both when times are good and when times are challenging. And in the end I suppose that is why I decided to use some of the little free time I have to serve two such organizations, because I wanted the chance to be among that group.

I extend my congratulations to all the nominees and winners at the Heart of Wood Buffalo Leadership Awards this year - but more than that I extend my sincere gratitude to them and all our local social profit organizations, volunteers, boards and committees and supportive partners in industry and business. It is a genuine honour to not only know you, but to stand among you at events like this and know I am with the heart of our community and with those who give so much of themselves simply to make the world a better place for others. You are truly the Heart of Wood Buffalo.

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