“We all work not for what we get out of it, but for what we can put into it.”
That’s how Grand Falls-Windsor’s 2011 Citizen of the Year, Si Thompson, described the most gratifying part of working as a volunteer.
On Thursday night, residents of Grand Falls-Windsor came together to recognize 12 deserving nominees and announce the winner of the 2011 Citizen of the Year award.
The award is an annual joint project by the Grand Falls-Windsor Lions Club, the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor and TC Media/The Advertiser. According to King Lion Shane Budgell, this year’s list of 12 nominees is one of the biggest they’ve had in a number of years.
“I think this year is definitely a year to remember, 12 fabulous individuals were nominated, which speaks to the character of the community, that’s an accomplishment all in itself,” said Budgell.
This year’s nominees were Brian Barry, Jason Barton, Bruno Bradley, Dr. Jared Butler, Elmo Hewlett, Scott James, Marie Knight, Dave Stoodly, Dr. John Trend, Iris Walsh, Joe Zhouri, and winner Si Thompson.
The announcement ceremony, which took place at the Exploits Curling Club, was well attended by members of the community, and the ceremony itself included a number of special guests including the recently crowned Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador Emily Bland, as well as greetings from Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans MHA Susan Sullivan, and Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor MP Scott Simms.
“Grand Falls-Windsor is widely recognized for its successful and innovative business community, hospitable spirit and resilient and community-minded citizens,” said Sullivan in her statement, which was read by master of ceremonies Councillor Roger Barnett.
Although there was only one winner, each of the 12 nominees were honoured in the ceremony for their hard work that caused them to stand out in the minds of those who nominated them.
The announcement that Thompson was this year’s award winner was met with a robust round of applause and cheers from the audience, but rendered Thompson speechless.
“I’m completely overwhelmed,” said Thompson upon receiving the award. “I’m in awe, I’m speechless, which is a rarity.”
Thompson’s work in the community spans decades, making his name synonymous with the spirit of volunteerism those who know him. The retired Royal Newfoundland Regiment Officer was a founding member of the Exploits Ground Search and Rescue team; he has served as president of the Environment Resources Management, and is an executive member of Ducks Unlimited. Thompson is a blood donor, having donated 150 times in his life. He has also been heavily involved with the Canadian Cancer Society for the past decade – he was involved with the first ever Relay for Life in Newfoundland and Labrador and volunteers annually with the Grand Falls-Windsor Relay for Life. Thompson also gives his time to the Status of Women Central, and also played a big role as a volunteer in organizing the town of Grand Falls-Windsor’s centennial celebrations. On top of all that, Thompson has spent nearly three decades volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross as a facilitator and trainer, preparing volunteers for emergency situations. With the Red Cross, Thompson provided assistance during the 9-11 crisis in Gander, and during the 2003 Badger flood.
When wildfires completely devastated the town of Slave Lake, Alberta in 2011 he was one of the first responders, and stayed there helping with relief efforts for nearly a month.
When the Advertiser spoke with Thompson after the ceremony he said one of the most gratifying things about being a volunteer is not recognition, but being able to see something you’ve given your time and effort to come to fruition.
He said that was one thing he found hard to deal with when volunteering with relief efforts in Slave Lake. The scale of the disaster meant relief efforts went on for months, and volunteers were dispatched on a rotation basis.
“It was so gratifying to be able to do something, but having to leave was hard,” said Thompson, adding he found himself wishing he could have stayed until the job was done.
Thompson admits being involved with so many different things is time consuming, but said, simply, “it has to be done.”
He joked that some of his friends say he’s missing the word “no” from his vocabulary, but when someone asks him for help he’s always willing to help.
“If something has to be done why pass it off to someone else when you can do it yourself?” he said.
Thompson said he was honoured and still in shock to be chosen as this year’s Citizen of the Year.
“It’s shocking to me being in the presence of so many deserving individuals, and to be singled out as one of those 12 was awesome in itself,” he said.
There was no question that judges Rex Barnes, Peggy Bartlett, Ron Ennis and Bruce Moores had their work cut out for them in selecting only one Citizen of the Year. It was suggested by many throughout the ceremony that there could have been 12 winners.
But when comes to recognizing the tireless efforts of volunteers, Barnett said it best during his closing remarks:
“Our community is the biggest winner of all because of your efforts.”