By Sarah-Jean Mannette,
Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre
Like much of this year, the pandemic has created many challenges. It has also created opportunities to connect with people in alternative and creative ways.
One such opportunity is the annual event to recognize volunteers who support military members and families by giving their time to the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre (H&R MFRC) and to PSP programs in Halifax/Shearwater. As part of their mission to improve the lives of military families, CANEX funds the Volunteer Recognition Program (VOREP), which allows them to recognize the important role volunteers play, and typically hosts this event.
Our volunteers are well known at the H&R MFRC and through PSP, many of whom have been volunteering for over 15 years. Volunteers are military members, family members, and those who have a passion for supporting military members and their families.
The volunteer recognition event also provides the H&R MFRC and PSP Halifax/Shearwater the opportunity to show their gratitude and thanks to the amazing contributions volunteers make throughout the year. Although the event could not be held due to current restrictions for public events, the annual cheque presentation did occur. To show the value of volunteer time that is given to both organizations, a mock cheque in the amount of $71,743.00 was presented by Acting PSP Halifax Manager Mike Almond and H&R MFRC Volunteer Coordinator Jill Clarke, to CFB Halifax Base Commander Capt (N) Sean Williams, 5th Canadian Division’s Col Chris Cotton, and 12 Wing Shearwater’s LCol Lauri Darras, CO of 406 Squadron. The cheque signifies the combined savings for PSP Halifax/Shearwater and H&R MFRC from the over 5,000 hours volunteers gave in support of military members and their families over the past year.
CAF Bases and Wings acknowledged the contributions of volunteers, along with the H&R MFRC and PSP Halifax/Shearwater demonstrated in their thank you letters to all volunteers.
In his letter, Capt (N) Williams referenced the challenging times faced this past year and the impact the volunteers had. “Hundreds of Defence Team members and their families have volunteered thousands of hours providing hope and smiles to sailors, soldiers, aviators and their families just when they needed it most,” he wrote.
12 Wing Commanding Officer, Col James Hawthorne, recognized volunteers in his letter to them. “Your support to military members and their families is vital to the success of the Canadian Armed Forces and I know that your work is especially appreciated by the members of 12 Wing.”
BGen Roch Pelletier, Commander of 5th Canadian Division, echoed Capt (N) Williams and Col Hawthorne’s sentiments on the effect volunteers have had. “Your contribution has left a positive impact on our military families, and would not have been possible without your commitment and dedication to our community.”
Almond , on behalf of PSP Halifax, encouraged volunteers to reflect on their contributions. “You should be truly proud of your commitment toward promoting esprit de corps and participation in the CAF recreation programs and MFRC events,” he said.
Shelley Hopkins, Executive Director of the H&R MFRC, thanked volunteers for their dedication to supporting military families. “Although you have had limited opportunities to volunteer over this past year, I must acknowledge that whenever we did make a request for volunteers, you have all offered to step-up in support of military families.”
This year, in lieu of hosting an in-person event, due to COVID-19 guidelines, last month volunteers received a letter and a CINEPLEX movie code that they can use to watch a ‘new’ premier movie from the comfort of their home. It is a different way of celebrating their efforts and has been well-received.
“The H&R MFRC recognizes the generous support of CANEX for sponsoring this annual Volunteer Recognition Event,” Hopkins added.