Volunteers who make Osoyoos great are honoured at appreciation banquet

By on April 25, 2017
Town of Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff presented the Osoyoos Volunteer of The Year Award to Birgit Arnstein during the annual Osoyoos Volunteer Appreciation Awards banquet held this past Saturday afternoon at the Sonora Community Centre. (Keith Lacey photo)

Town of Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff presented the Osoyoos Volunteer of The Year Award to Birgit Arnstein during the annual Osoyoos Volunteer Appreciation Awards banquet held this past Saturday afternoon at the Sonora Community Centre. (Keith Lacey photo)

After a busy and rewarding 45-year career in nursing, Birgit Arnstein wasn’t about to ease into retirement when she moved to Osoyoos to begin retirement.

Instead, she started volunteering almost immediately and has spent almost a decade donating endless hours and her contagious enthusiasm giving back to the community.

Arnstein was recognized for her commitment and dedication by being selected the individual Volunteer of the Year at the 2017 Osoyoos Volunteer Appreciation and Awards ceremony on  Saturday.

A full house of 250 local residents – most of them community volunteers – packed into the Sonora Community Centre on Saturday afternoon for the annual volunteer appreciation ceremony.

Arnstein, 70, has been an active volunteer with the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society, Osoyoos Desert Society board of directors and the Osoyoos Festival Society.

In 2015, when the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society was in danger of folding, Arnstein stepped in and revitalized the group by enlisting new board members and enabling the organization to survive and grow.

She has served as president, past president and acting interim president of the longstanding community group that monitors water quality in Osoyoos Lake by taking weekly water samples, as well as promoting events to raise education about the importance of water issues in this community.

Arnstein initiated the Osoyoos Lake Day in May of 2016, which included speakers, education packages and entertainment.

She also arranged for a public awareness campaign to promote this event with the Osoyoos Times and was a key member of the committee that designed the pole banner and Main Street banner.

Arnstein remains a crew member of the boat used to monitor water conditions in Osoyoos Lake.

Arnstein has been a volunteer with the Osoyoos Festival Society for many years and helps decorate the Town’s float, bakes cherry pies and even helps stay in Gyro Park to help clean up after the annual Canada Day fireworks attract thousands of visitors to our community.

She has also been an active member of the Osoyoos Desert Society and helped organize the annual Romancing the Desert fundraiser for many years.

“On behalf of the Town of Osoyoos, I thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to our community,” said town councillor Mike Campol.

Arnstein said she was humbled and surprised by being named Volunteer of the Year.

“I knew I had been nominated, but I never expected this … it’s quite an honour,” she said.

She got involved in the community almost from the day she moved here to begin her retirement years, she said.

“I had come here with my kids for many years before I retired and I knew I wanted to give back to this community as soon as I moved here,” she said. “I got into it right away and joined the water quality group and then joined the Osoyoos

Desert Society and then Osoyoos Festival Society.

“It kept me busy and it was my way of giving back.”

The key to enjoying volunteering is to get involved in causes you believe in, she said.

“I have a passion for things like clean water and preserving our desert,” she said. “Those causes are important to me, so it’s easy to volunteer your time to help out causes you care about.”

Arnstein said she has no plans on slowing down her volunteer duties.

Other nominees for Volunteer of the Year included:

• Terry Bolton – Lake Osoyoos Sailing Club.

• Brian Lobb – Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 173.

• Brenda Dorosz – Founder of Osoyoos Gift Cupboard and Save Our School campaign.

• Leonard Gebhart – Volunteer driver with Better at Home.

• Maureen Poucher – Osoyoos Senior’s Centre.

• Doug Alexander – Osoyoos Museum Society board.

• Doris Walton – Meals on Wheels, Osoyoos Soroptimists International.

• Verna Shannon – Meals on Wheels.

• Lilliana DeNardia – Desert Valley Hospice Society.

The winner of the Outstanding Community Group Award were the members with the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 173.

Members with the local branch hold a variety of ongoing and special events throughout the year, such as meat draws, fish and chips nights and monthly dinners, to raise money for the community.

All of the Legion’s events are organized by a dedicated group of volunteers.

Funds raised go to the local Safe House for women and children, Osoyoos Secondary School Band, Bighorn  Cadet Squadron, Osoyoos Museum, Meals on Wheels, Books for Tots program and many more.

Funds are also used to present graduating students from Osoyoos Secondary School with bursaries and to assist Canadian veterans and their family members.

The Legion also donates their hall for community meetings and events and provides lunches for funerals, anniversaries, birthdays and weddings.

The Legion has donated between $16,000 to $20,000 to community groups and organizations annually for the past several years.

Rick Lundin, zone commander for the Royal Canadian Legion, said this award will be shared by the dozens of volunteer members at Branch 173.

“This is very much a team effort and we’re very proud of the team of volunteers we have at our branch,” he said. “This branch has been around since 1946 and the members have been helping our community ever since.”

The Best Volunteer Project Award was given to David Adamson, a volunteer co-ordinator with the School After School Tutoring Program.

The program started just over a year ago and provides young students an opportunity to receive help with subjects such as math, reading and writing.

The volunteers include four retired or semi-retired teachers, two medical professionals and one accounting professional.

The program offers free tutoring services to students ranging from Grade 4 to first year college students and there are currently 24 students accessing help.

The primary subject focused on is math, but students are also receiving help with chemistry, reading, writing, social studies, economics, biology and physics.

The tutors work with students and their parents to not only improve grades, but to show students how to achieve success.

Many of the students come to the program with low marks, frustration or behavioural issues, but after accessing the program, they have high marks and a better understanding of course materials and display better behaviour.

“The program assists all students in achieving their best by reducing the financial barriers that private tutoring often brings,” said town councillor Carol Youngberg, in presenting the award.

The winner of the Council Appointed Committee or Taskforce Member Award was given to the Osoyoos Community Services Commission, which was formed as a joint committee of town council.

This committee was originally called the Osoyoos and District Recreation Commission.

The purpose of the committee is to provide an objective view in the public interest and to give impartial and informed higher level advice to municipal staff and council on matters related to the provision and delivery of indoor and outdoor recreation and leisure opportunities and development of environmental programs designed to raise community awareness and achieve greater sustainability of the community.

Members of the committee represent the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and the Town of Osoyoos.

Over the years, this committee has had major contributions from members who were dedicated volunteers and individuals who made a positive difference in the community.

In the past, members of this committee assisted with budgeting of recreation facilities in town, assisted with the discussion of new recreation programming and represented the committee on various projects and council-appointed committees.

Committee members recently served on the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. and assisted with the new parks and trail plan for Osoyoos, Community Services Master Plan and the development and implementation of the Osoyoos Splash Park.

Gerald Davis, the town’s director of community services, and longtime employee Carol Nesdoly, were on hand Saturday to pick up the award.

Mayor Sue McKortoff said every volunteer should be proud of his or her commitment to making Osoyoos a wonderful place to live.

“You are all individuals with a sense of personal responsibility and civic pride,” she said. “Your commitment to reach beyond yourselves helps to build a true sense of community.

“For achievements made in 2016, we are taking this opportunity to celebrate your hard work and spirit of giving. We thank you sincerely for all the good work you do for others in the Town of Osoyoos.”

McKortoff and members of town council handed out the awards on Saturday.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

Mayor Sue McKortoff presents the Best Volunteer Project Award to David Adamson, volunteer co-ordinator with the School After School Tutoring Program. (Keith Lacey photo)

Mayor Sue McKortoff presents the Best Volunteer Project Award to David Adamson, volunteer co-ordinator with the School After School Tutoring Program. (Keith Lacey photo)

Rick Lundin, zone commander with the Royal Canadian Legion, picked up the award for Outstanding Community Group on behalf of the mambership with Branch 173 in Osoyoos at the Osoyoos Volunteer Appreciation Awards banquet held Saturday afternoon at the Sonora Community Centre. Lundin said this award is shared by the entire membership with Branch 173. Lundin was presented the award by Town of Osoyoos councillor Mike Campol. (Keith Lacey photo)

Rick Lundin, zone commander with the Royal Canadian Legion, picked up the award for Outstanding Community Group on behalf of the membership with Branch 173 in Osoyoos at the Osoyoos Volunteer Appreciation Awards banquet held Saturday afternoon at the Sonora Community Centre. Lundin said this award is shared by the entire membership with Branch 173. Lundin was presented the award by Town of Osoyoos councillor Mike Campol. (Keith Lacey photo)

Mayor Sue McKortoff presents the award for Council Appointed Committee or Taskforce members to the Community Services Advisory Committee. From left after McKortoff are Carol Nesdoly, Coun. Jim King and Gerald Davis, director of community services. (Keith Lacey photo)

Mayor Sue McKortoff presents the award for Council Appointed Committee or Taskforce members to the Community Services Advisory Committee. From left after McKortoff are Carol Nesdoly, Coun. Jim King and Gerald Davis, director of community services. (Keith Lacey photo)

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