Three women from Steinbach are being recognized for their volunteer spirit.
In recognition of Manitoba turning 150 years old in 2020, a list of 150 Manitobans has been unveiled, who stand out for their role in making Manitoba what it is today. The three individuals from Steinbach to make that list are Cyndy Friesen, Merle Gadsby and Tammy Bekkering.
Friesen has lived in Steinbach since 1992. Since then, she has given her time to numerous organizations including Agape House, MS Society, Diabetes Canada, Steinbach Community Christmas, Terry Fox runs, Relay For Life and Soup's On.
"I'm honoured and humbled to be receiving this award," says Friesen. "I just have a passion for serving others, it's been something that I've done my whole life."
"What makes Cyndy an outstanding volunteer is her passion and her devotion to treating everyone equally, with the utmost respect and dignity," says Joy Neufeld of Soup's On.
Friesen says many of the organizations she volunteers with address issues surrounding poverty and homelessness.
"My mother recently reminded me that when I was a child, I had some concern regarding my classmates who were vulnerable and marginalized," she says. "And I always wanted to include them in things."
Friesen says serving others is a wonderful opportunity and she believes the true measure of any community is how it treats its most vulnerable members.
"My focus is always to treat all community members that I serve with compassion, respect and in a non-judgmental way," she says.
Friesen adds volunteering has provided an opportunity to form great relationships that have had a lasting impact on her life.
Merle Gadsby has been involved with Special Olympics Manitoba for 35 years. What started as an opportunity to do warmup activities with the athletes turned into a career of coaching.
After more than three decades, Gadsby's resume now includes coaching athletes in snowshoe, golf and track and field. She has trained coaches, raised funds and is currently a regional leader, overseeing the Eastman Region, which encompasses 13 programs, 24 coaches and 166 athletes.
"Without her passion and dedication, there would be no Special Olympics Manitoba programs in the Steinbach area," says Lesley Camaso-Catalan, who is responsible for nominating Gadsby.
Meanwhile, Tammy Bekkering has been volunteering with Steinbach Community Outreach for about six years now.
"I was surprised and humbled and honoured," says Bekkering, with respect to the award. "I don't do it for the recognition. I just do it to try and help people."
Bekkering says she volunteers in order to help people have a better life.
"Especially people that didn't have all the advantages that I did growing up or a stable home life and parents that teach them how to be responsible and how to manage life," she says. "Lots of people don't have those options and it sort of brings out my motherly instincts and then I want to help them make a better life for themselves and get them stable."
Bekkering says volunteering is so worth it, noting she gets blessed by the people she works with and the clients she deals with.
"The people I get to connect with, and feel like I can make a difference, they start becoming friends and family," she says.
Every other week, Bekkering drives people to Winnipeg for meetings and appointments.
"If nine people take advantage of me, but I can make a difference for one, it's well worth my time," she says.
Bekkering encourages people to find something they are passionate about and then volunteer in that field. She says it is rewarding to help people and you end up getting more back than you put in.
All honourees receive a commemorative medal, and in addition, Canada Life will make a $500 donation to the charity of each honouree's organization of choice. Friesen's donation was to Soup's On Steinbach, Gadsby's donation was to Special Olympics Manitoba and Bekkering's donation was to Steinbach Community Outreach.