Ted Schaffer took to the stage periodically throughout the evening to emcee the Langley City’s annual volunteer appreciation banquet tonight.
But he was obviously choked up when he was called up unexpectedly to receive recognition for himself, and given a standing ovation by the crowd of about 200 in attendance.
Councillor Gayle Martin said his length of commitment was almost unprecedented, noting Schaffer was elected 28 years ago, and has served a total of 25 years on council.
A few months back, the mayor confirmed he would not be seeking re-election in October’s municipal elections.
So while he vows to remain active as a community volunteer after finishing his time in office, Schaffer’s council colleagues felt the banquet was an ideal time to celebrate the mayor and his years of commitment and dedication to Langley City.
“It doesn’t happen very often in any city in British Columbia that anyone serves for 25 years. But Ted has done that…,” Martin said, calling it a milestone.
“Ted, we want to thank you for your service… We want to thank you for your years of service to this council, to this community, and to its citizens,” she said.
While Schaffer was singled out for recognition during Thursday night’s dinner at the Coast Hotel & Convention Centre, he wasn’t the only one.
Special acknowledgment was also given to the late Rhys Griffith – another long-time community volunteer – who passed away on Feb. 3.
“Rhys was a significant contributor to this community for over 20 years,” Schaffer said. “And he will be sorely missed in this community.”
More than half century of giving back
One of the highlights at each year’s event is a speech from a distinguished community volunteer.
While Velma MacAllister has been in Langley less than two years (along with her husband of 55 years, Don) ,she’s has already established herself as a “volunteer extraordinare,” said Schaffer, who asked her to speak.
She’s been volunteering since the mid-1960s and said she can’t imagine her life without it.
She currently volunteers once a week with Sources Food Bank, has taken an active role in the Langley RCMP community policing programs, and co-chairs the Langley Christmas Bureau.
“I hope that in some way I have helped a small little bit in the community,” MacAllister said, noting she gets back much more than she gives as a volunteer.
For instance, it keeps her brain young, it gives her a purpose for getting out of bed in the morning, and it feeds her love for working and sharing with others.
Stealing a line from MLA Mary Polak’s executive assistant Cathy Gibbs (and another community volunteer Jim McGregor), MacAllister concluded with a chuckle, “Hire me to do it, I’m good… for nothing! We’re all… good for nothing.”
Council give thanks
Thursday was also about recognizing the army of volunteers – like MacAllister – who give of their time and energies to close to 60 various organizations, committees, task forces, and projects in the community.
“This evening is a special evening,” Schaffer said. “This is an evening where we honour the community volunteers – people who have given back to the community. We have this little dinner as a token of our appreciation.”
Councillor divvied up the list of those to be recognized, and while taking their turn each shared a few comments about volunteers and what they have meant to the community.
“This is your evening to shine,” said Coun. Paul Albrecht.
“Your fellowship and sharing of common goals and interests with other folks like yourself weaves together to shape the fabric of our community, a community to be proud of – the place to be. And a sincere thank you for volunteering and giving our community the most precious thing you will ever own, your time, your talent, and your passion – all without seeking reward or recognition. All of you make life in our community better. Your hard work affects our community more than you will ever know. And for all you do, I thank you all so very much.”
Coun. Jack Arnold shared a moment from his volunteer career some 30 years ago. He was running a volunteer drop-in program for teens. The kids had been playing ball hockey one night, and he was chauffeuring them back home when he overheard a conversation among the kids. One boy said he was supposed to go to a “killer” party that night, but was going to give it a miss because he was too tire.
For him, that was his moment of confirmation that he was doing something important.
“All of you have things that have made it worthwhile… Sure, the dinner is nice, but it’s not why you’re here and it’s not what makes it all worthwhile for you,” Arnold said to the room filled primarily with volunteers.
“What makes this community great is its volunteers,” said Coun. Nathan Pachal.
“It’s everyone in this room, and those who are not in this room, that dedicate countless hours to make Langley City truly the place to be… we thank you.”
Martin also took a chance to give thanks, noting that every volunteer in Langley is deserving of a “big round of applause.”
“Martin Luther King Jr. once said ‘life’s most persistent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’ Tonight we have a room full of people doing for others.
“We can’t thank you enough. You’re all very, very special to us… there’s many things that go on in this community that wouldn’t go on without [you].”
Looking out over a sea of faces, Coun. Val van den Broek acknowledged that everyone has a different story, comes from a different background, has different life experiences, and has very different motivations for giving.
But, they all have at least one thing in common, van den Broek said. “Your willingness to give your time to help others.”
She admitted to being “humbled” by all the volunteers in Langley for their “generosity of spirit and compassion for your fellow human beings.”
“It is all of you who so generously give your time, your warmth, your humour, and your caring. It is all of you, doing what you do, who take my breath away.”
Coun. Rudy Storteboom thanked everyone for coming to the party, but he wasn’t referring to their presence at the evening’s soiree, but rather their participation in committees, service groups, and charities.
“It’s a great day in the City of Langley. It’s kind of like being at the Oscars. Today, we celebrate our amazing volunteers,” Storteboom said.
“Today, we say ‘thank you’ for the time and the energy that you continue to give away in our community every day,” he said.
“Everyone needs a friend. Every community needs volunteers and every volunteer needs to be appreciated… Volunteers know that you can find yourself when you give yourself away… Volunteers know that we are stronger together. Volunteers are the glue that holds us together… In the end, our people are our greatest asset. Together, we create the community that we want to live in. More than just a place to be, you bring life to this place that we call ‘home’,” Storteboom said, thanking all for “coming to the party” and making Langley so great.
“Today, Langley City is happy and proud to celebrate you.”
Schaffer concluded with a thank you to each and every community volunteer, asking them to continue their tireless work. He also extended an invitation to others to get involved.
• Video to come
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