The surprise element caught the County of Stettler’s top award recipients off guard.
“We didn’t see this one coming,” said Denise Nitschke, as she and husband Gord accepted the Stettler Dodge Community Service Award on Friday evening in Red Willow.
“I don’t know how you managed to keep this a secret,” said a surprised Rae Munden, to her Erskine School colleagues.
Munden was presented with the ATCO Electric Arts, Culture and Heritage Award.
Gord and Denise Nitschke were honoured with the county’s top volunteer award for their dedicated and longtime service to the Linda Hall community.
Presenter Ila Lunevich said the busy couple can always be counted on to “quietly get the job done.”
Often times, they used their own equipment to maintain the Linda Hall grounds and spearheaded many projects for the community, she said.
Munden’s passion for drama, and her willingness to share it with the Erskine community, earned her the arts and culture award.
The Erskine teacher touched many young lives in youth groups, drama classes and youth justice, said Debra Spiller, the Erskine School principal.
“Rae is a leader who dedicates her time and effort to what she sets as a priority — our children and the community in which they reside.”
Munden said she has lived in the county for 30 years and “can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Recognition of contributions by youth in the county has another community on board.
The Endmoor Cultural and Recreation Society named Byemoor’s Deanne Walker as its first youth award winner.
Presenter Doreen Nixon said Walker is actively involved in community and school activities, sports and dance.
The Botha community was credited with taking the initiative to establish the youth award in that community a few years ago.
This year’s recipient of the Botha youth award was 13-year-old Jessie Brinson.
Along with her contributions to the community and school, Brinson also volunteers at the Stettler hospital, said Botha’s Lorraine Hankins.
Phil Holton, the director of recreation for the county, said he was pleased to see the youth component of the awards program grow.
“It’s a great initiative to encourage and recognize the young people — a little recognition goes a long way,” Holton said.
Phyllis Starling was honoured with the Botha community lifetime achievement award.
Starling used her talent in art to serve and enhance the community for almost 60 years, Hankins said in making the presentation.
Each of the agricultural societies in the county acknowledged their dedicated volunteers with community service awards.
Presenters listed many acts of volunteerism of the unsung heroes who keep rural communities vibrant. Among those volunteers were:
Donalda and District Agricultural Society — Jodi Lee Blouin is considered an “entity extraordinaire” in the Donalda community. She’s active with the agricultural society, the curling club and parent school association.
Big Valley Agricultural Society — Chris Hennel is an “integral part” of the agricultural society, sports events and the Friends of the McKenzie Crossing River Society.
Sullivan Lake West Agricultural Society — Doris Schilling, the Endiang-Byemoor volunteer, is said to be “the first to arrive and the last to leave” at any event she helps with.
Stettler Agricultural Society — Michelle Rangen was a driving force behind the improvements to the agricultural society before her move to Innisfail.
Red Willow Agricultural Society — Harold and Betty Bell are “tireless workers” with the Red Willow community, keeping the hamlet pristine and the agricultural society running smoothly.
The Red Willow Agricultural Society hosted the county’s annual community service awards. The master of ceremonies was Janet Fletcher, a former county councillor.
The evening included a meal and entertainment by The Jazz Guys and Gracenotes Choir singers Dacia Gramlick and Carly Armstrong.
Stettler is scheduled to host next year’s county awards night.