Certain folks really do epitomize what ‘commitment to a community’ is truly all about.
Lorraine Hankins is indeed one of those people.
She is the executive director of the Stettler Information and Referral Centre and the director of recreation and risk management for the County of Stettler. But for Hankins, it’s not just a matter of heading to the office and back home each day. “I’m very blessed to have the two positions – I love my jobs,” she explained during a recent chat. “The variety is awesome.
“Every day is different! There is no routine here,” she added with a smile.
She’s also a certified playground inspector for the County, plus she has a contract with the Clearview Public School district as well.
So through the summer months, you might find Hankins checking out the local neighbourhood playgrounds to ensure their safety.
She has also always been extensively involved in a number of community initiatives and organizations, and she finds joy and fulfillment in doing so. It’s not a ‘have to’ kind of thing, but truly a desire to lend a helping hand.
“I volunteer for the Botha Community Centre where I am treasurer. We look after the hall and the arena there,” she explained. “I also volunteer for the Stettler Pheasant Festival committee, and I’m on the Stettler Adult Learning Council as well.”
Where did this passion for community service stem from?
“My mom helped out with making food for fall suppers and dad would help with building projects like with the community hall,” she said. “We were a close-knit community, so you just kind of helped out,” she recalled of those early years growing up in Athabasca. “It was just very community-minded.”
After leaving Athabasca, she worked in Coronation for several years before ultimately settling in Stettler.
It was also in Coronation that her sense of how best to serve a community further blossomed.
“I was the first full-time FCSS employee in Coronation, and you had to be very involved in the community there to find out what the needs were. I started out with a desk and a half a sheet of paper with what they thought might be some of the needs.
“It was my job to go and find out others. So I would literally walk the streets and talk to people; I also went to meetings to find out what the needs were. It didn’t take long to build a full-time position of helping out.”
Hankins also has her bachelor of education degree, but hasn’t taught in the conventional sense.
“I guess I’m teaching in a different way. I’m helping people understand things more on a one-to-one basis than in a class setting.”
She recalls one year when she was working in an Athabasca agency and subbing in school classes as well.
School wrapped up and it was the beginning of July.
“My dad said, ‘Why aren’t you going to work?’” she recalled with a laugh. She reminded him that summer had just started not to mention that the particular day was July 1st – a national holiday.
“So I headed to the Blue Heron Vocational Training Centre, but they didn’t have an opening.” However, they told her she could undergo some training for two days. “At the end of the second day he said that one of the staff wasn’t coming back, and did I want a full-time job? The first year I worked with high-needs folks, a lot of non-verbal and behavioural issues.”
She went on to cover a multitude of tasks as a community support worker, and again, her skill-set continued to grow.
And it proved to be, in many ways, a superb training ground for her work in Coronation as well.
She applied for the post with the Stettler Information and Referral Society in June of 1999 and the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s been a full and rewarding journey which has also happily included marriage and family, too.
And speaking of family, shortly after giving birth to her daughter, she was asked to start up a ‘moms and tots’ group in Botha. “I was off on maternity leave, and a lady said, ‘Lorraine, there are a bunch of new babies around here – you need to start this group!” she laughed. “She was one of those ladies you just listened to.”
So the group was launched, and the experience further helped to solidify Hankins’ passion for community involvement.
“The Botha store was also still running at the time, and someone said, ‘Lorraine, you should come to a Botha Community Centre meeting.” She stayed with it, and was even honoured just last year for her many years of service with the Botha Community Association.
Through it all, Hankins is just happy to have lent a helping hand.
“It’s nice to see smiles on people’s faces when you have accomplished something with them. With some clients, it’s taken us two years to get a permanent resident card or tackle whatever barriers they’ve got. But we stick with it, and when it’s all done, it’s very fulfilling to know you have made a difference. Or to see people who are struggling financially get approved for programs and then tell you their freezer is full and they are able to save money for their children.
“To make differences in people’s lives is very fulfilling.”