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Posted: October 12, 2021

2021 Volunteers of the Year celebrated

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) is celebrating its 2021 Electoral Area Volunteer of the Year award recipients.

“Year upon year we are constantly impressed with the level of volunteerism shown in our region,” said RDEK Board Chair Rob Gay. “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.”

This year’s award recipients are:

Area A – Kristina Bursey;

Area B – Walter Semeniuk;

Area C – Al Freeze;

Area E – Sharon Prinz;

Area F – Doug Charlton;

Area G – Phyllis Christensen.

“The efforts of the Volunteer of The Year award Recipients will be felt throughout the East Kootenay for many years, from keeping community halls running smoothly to providing bicycles to some of Canada’s newest residents. From search and rescue training through trail stewardship and outdoor recreational clubs, this year’s volunteers of the year are continually making a difference,” added Gay.

Volunteer of the Year Award Recipients

Area A – Kristina Bursey

Kristina 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, Kristina runs the twice weekly Horse Play Games and works extensively at the grounds. Kristina is also deeply involved in youth.

“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 Electoral Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.

Area B – Walter Semeniuk

Walter came to Jaffray nearly 70 years ago to work for Galloway Lumber. He met and married his wife and they raised their children in the area. Walter 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,” stated Area B Director Stan Doehle.

Area C – Al Freeze

Al 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 Al has volunteered to supervise the contract labour crew during the construction of the Chief Isadore Trail.

Al and his family members have been responsible for the clearing of the Chief Isadore Trail every spring since it opened. Al 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; replaced 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, Sharon, 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 four 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.

Sharon 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. Sharon 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

Doug refurbishes bicycles that were destined for the dump and gets them into the hands of people who can not afford them. Doug 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,” noted Area F Director Susan Clovechok.

Area G – Phyllis Christensen

Phyllis Wikman Christensen has lived in Edgewater almost all of her life, attending Edgewater school beginning in Grade 4 and continuing through to graduation from Edgewater High. 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 Phyllis 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, Phyllis was on the executive and was a tireless worker in fundraising and the actual labour of renovation. When the reno was completed, she then stayed on the executive 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 even though her children had moved on to the high school in Invermere. In 2001, when her parents, Walter and Vera, moved into assisted living quarters Phyllis stepped into her mother’s role as secretary to the Edgewater Seniors. A position which she very capably holds to this day. She’s also a steady worker who initiates projects and is the number one cleaner of the facility.

Because of her knowledge of the local scene, Phyllis 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.

Photos courtesy RDEK


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