Laura Stead is graduating from Langley Fundamental School, and using her scholarship as winner of the Pet Swensson youth award towards her first year of nursing studies at Trinity Western University. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

PHOTOS: Outstanding Langley volunteers each shocked to be recognized

Each of the winning volunteers gave without expecting anything in return.

Shock and astonishment crossed the faces of all four of Langley’s outstanding volunteers as they were recognized with standing ovations, trophies, and accolades.

Sylvia Anderson, Karl and Toni Dreise, and Laura Stead were all singled out during the Township of Langley’s recent volunteer appreciation dinner for what the mayor called generosity in volunteering their time, knowledge, and efforts to make this an “exceptional” community.

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For her dedication to numerous organizations in Langley over a period of decades, Anderson was presented with the coveted Eric Flowerdew volunteer award.

Anderson said she was flabbergasted to be selected for acknowledgment.

“No, I was very much surprised that I was picked,” she said. “Did you see the other nominees and all the work that they have done and how many volunteer hours they have put in?”

The 81-year-old Langleyite was anxious to get home and share the news with her daughter. She’s been volunteering with the community since she moved here with her family in 1971, helping with the Langley Christmas Bureau, Field Naturalists, Special Olympics, BC Summer and Senior Games, Relay for Life, the heritage society, Langley Emergency Social Services, the seniors action table, the Campbell Valley Community Visitors Centre, the Canadian Blood Services, and most recently taking the duties of volunteer coordinator with the Langley Volunteer Bureau.

“I love it,” she said of giving back to her community. “My mother was a volunteer. I always blame it on her.”

Hundreds of caring community members were thanked and celebrated during the evening festivities held at the Langley Events Centre last Thursday, explained Township Mayor Jack Froese.

“It is always a pleasure to recognize the people who give so much to make life better for others and to thank our volunteers for everything they do for this community,” said Froese, who co-hosted the event with Nolan Killeen, a youth representative on the Township’s agricultural advisory and economic enhancement committee.

It is people who truly make a place, he added. And this event is one means for the Township to pay tribute to the many people who help make this community “great.”

Dreises, a couple married for 57 years, were also recognized for their decades of contributions, being presented with the John and Muriel Arnason award.

Now living in Murrayville, much of their volunteer effort was made in Willoughby, the Langley neighbourhood where they raised their three boys.

They have dedicated more than 35 years to volunteering in Langley, much of that with the Willoughby Community Hall Society, of which Karl served as president for 28 of those years.

The couple was also a driving force in preserving, moving, and upgrading the heritage building, Froese explained.

And in addition to multiple other community efforts, Toni was a founding member of the Willoughby Women’s Institute, the couple helped start cubs and scouts in the area and remained active for a quarter century. They also volunteer with the Heritage Society and are active in Pitch-In efforts.

The Flowerdew and Arnason award recipients received $750 to be contributed to a recognized charity or society of their choice.

And while three of the four recognized at the award ceremony were senior citizens and long-time Langley residents, the Pete Swensson outstanding community youth award went to a 17-year-old aspiring nurse.

Laura Stead was picked out eight Langley student candidates to be recognized and to receive a $750 scholarship, which she has earmarked for Trinity Western University.

“Super surprised and shocked” to get the award, the Grade 12 Langley Fundamental School student was lauded for her multiple volunteer efforts with her church, student council, and Amnesty International.

The straight-A student since Grade 6, Stead has also played volleyball for years, been team captain and the high scorer in basketball, and has earned awards and scholarships for her academic, athletic, and even artistic talents as a top musician and vocalist, and current lead role in the school’s upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast.

Gobsmacked might be more suited to describe her astonishment when called up to accept the Swensson award.

“I was completely surprised. I was not expecting that,” she said. There was so many youth who were just completely amazing with all they’ve done.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Vancouver that night, sent a message of congratulations to the Langley volunteers being honoured.

“Your compassion to helping others, as well as your selfless service, truly embodies what it means to be Canadian,” Froese read on Trudeau’s behalf.


A series of other nominees for the Eric Flowerdew volunteer award were also recognized.

Those included: Tony DeJong, Zosia Ettenberg, Rob W.C. Jones-Cooke, Carol LaJeunesse, and Peter Massey.

As for the students who were nominated, Stead was accompanied by a series of other young candidates for the Pete Swensson outstanding community youth award. The other nominees were R.E. Mountain Secondary’s Jennifer Chu, Langley Senior Secondary’s Kalyn Hartmann, Langley Fine Arts’ Annika Szarka, Brookswood Secondary’s Colin Ulle, Walnut Grove’s Dannon Sturn, Langley Christian Secondary’s Brodie Hofer, and D.D. Poppy Secondary’s Alana Collmann.


Karl and Toni Dreise might now live in Murrayville, but their heart is committed to the Willoughby community where they volunteered decades of time and raised their three boys. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

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