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Empathy in action: Celebrating the volunteers of Jasper

From the left: Ginette Marcoux, Monica Rodriguez and Astra Fe Penas with the Jasper Employment and Education Centre hold a banner for National Volunteer Week outside the provincial building on April 14. | P.Shokeir photo

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

Volunteers will be honoured for their contributions to Jasper and its residents during National Volunteer Week from April 24 to April 30.

This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is “Volunteering is Empathy in Action,” which affirms the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy.

“We really want to hear from the community on how they’ve experienced Empathy in Action from volunteers, and so we’re really hoping for stories in that way,” said Ginette Marcoux, a leading member of the organizing committee and executive director of the Jasper Employment and Education Centre.

“I think those stories would make volunteer week a lot richer.”

Each year, Marcoux brings different organizations together so they all can conduct similar activities for National Volunteer Week and share the gratitude, as many of these organizations are reliant on volunteers in order to operate.

In Jasper, volunteers help out in a variety of ways, such as work in schools, help out with events, work at the food bank or food rescue, assist seniors, organize clean-ups and help shovel sidewalks as part of the Snow Angels program.

Many charitable organizations are also dependent on volunteers for fundraising.

“Jasper is very lucky to have the volunteer base that it does,” said Angie Thom, another member of the organizing committee and director of library services at the Jasper Municipal Library.

In previous years, a banquet was held to honour volunteers, but due to the volatility of COVID, celebrations will once again be primarily digital.

The pandemic itself has also restricted volunteering opportunities for many organizations.

“We haven’t had volunteers in the library for two years and have just started bringing our volunteers back,” Thom said.

“So, we’re in that weird position where we thank everyone who’s volunteered with us over the years but I haven’t had anyone in (for) two years just because of the restriction.”

While some traditional volunteer opportunities have fallen by the wayside, many residents continued to volunteer in unique ways.

Nancy Addison, for example, has been helping connect dozens of Ukrainian refugees with locals willing to provide sanctuary.

“Definitely from a volunteer perspective and the theme itself of Empathy in Action, I can’t think of someone more deserving of being recognized (for) opening her heart to find homes for these people,” Marcoux said.

Once again, Mayor Richard Ireland is expected to proclaim next week as National Volunteer Week, and Jasper Municipal Council will release a thank-you video for local volunteers.

The Jasper Volunteers Facebook page, which launched last year, will also continue to highlight the achievements of volunteers.

Volunteer stories can be submitted to learn@jasperemployment.com by April 30 for sharing on the Facebook page and the chance to win a dinner for two.

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