The mood was light and cheerful at the 2019 Community Builder Awards – filled with laughter, chocolatey treats, and holiday music.
But that’s just exactly what the organizers of You’ve Gotta Have Friends (YGHF) wanted for their Wednesday afternoon get-together at the Douglas Recreation Centre.
Seven recipients, their nominators, and anyone looking to connect with their community, gathered to give each other and year end pat on the back.
Janice McTaggart, co-coordinator of YGHF and the afternoon’s emcee, said this was the ninth year for the awards and has been a great way to bring residents together.
“We decided to do something because we were noticing people doing wonderful things in the community,” McTaggart explained. “Often it’s the least noticed people doing it too, so we felt this was an opportunity to raise people up and give some recognition.”
Each recipient took their turn to receive a specially made plague and get their picture snapped after a brief introduction on their win.
Loretta Solomon was one such winner who was singled out for volunteering at Langley Senior’s Centre.
Humbled about her recognition, she said the kudos was for her efforts to get senior’s connecting and out of isolation.
As team leader for the centre’s gardening club and a senior citizen herself, Solomon said hundreds of daily interruptions led her to an important realization.
“I want the garden to look nice, but I’d be working on it and people would interrupt me – telling me how to do something. I realized the interruptions are what it’s all about,” Solomon explained. “It’s not about the beauty of the garden, it’s about the connections it can provide.”
Solomon was also instrumental in the installment of a “willing to chat bench” at the senior’s centre, a spot designation for connection.
“The idea is not original, it came from Britain,” she said. “I read it in the newspaper and the idea is if you are sitting down there, you are open to or looking to have a conversation with someone.”
Other winners included Marie Gold, an advocate for mental health services in Aldergrove who approached parks and recreation to launch senior bus trips.
Jeff Berden, a Superstore employee, was also honoured for his welcoming presence, along with Shane Madsen, for his magnetic and engaging personality.
Langley Volunteers, a relatively new bureau, which helps connect volunteers to organizations that need a hand, also took home recognition. Velma McAllister and Jim Mair were on hand to accept their plaque.
Mair said the bureau has 362 volunteers and is “mushrooming” every day.
“We you can help others, you heal yourself,” he assured.
Teri James accepted a plaque on behalf on the Downtown Langley Business Association, awarded for their efforts to bring people together with different events.
The Langley Advance Times was also awarded for community engagement.
Solomon playfully ripped the notepad out the the Advance Times reporter’s hand and insisted on conducting an interview so every recipient was fairly covered.
Before and after the quick ceremony, The Seabilly’s band played some holiday favourites, and “The Hockey Song”, though it was quickly justified as a winter tune.
A buffet of treats, sandwiches, and soft drinks kept mouths busy between the plentiful conversation
Elf hats and passable picture frame were hits with the photo-taking crowd.
All together, about thirty people came out to celebrate; McTaggart and the crew made it known that you don’t have to be a member of the group – everyone looking for a friend is always welcome.
Weekly coffee gatherings, summer concerts called Boppin’ in the Park, and conversation over food are just some of the events YGHF has done in recent months.
More information can be found at www.you’vegottahavefriends.ca
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