A resident of Ryerson Township is the July Local Champion for the Burk's Falls area. Bob Hall, who turns 76 in October, was recognized for his volunteer work with several organizations, but especially for his work over the years on the Santa Claus Parade Committee and Winter-fest Committee. When reached by the Burk's Falls Town Hall office announcing him as the July winner, Hall told The Nugget he wasn't totally surprised. That's not to say he expected someone should nominate him for his work over the decades. His good friends, Ken and Diane McIntyre, who have also worked on the committees he's been on, suggested they might nominate him for the Local Champion award. “It was very nice,” Hall told The Nugget. “But like most volunteers we don't do these things for recognition. It's our hope that what we do also encourages other people to volunteer.” Hall encourages young people to volunteer their time for a group or cause and is a big supporter of the 40 hours of community service high school students must perform to get their diploma. He also encourages students to go beyond the 40 hours of community service and continue their volunteer efforts into adulthood. Young people in the community have benefited from Hall's work because for many years he helped organize teen dances. When new residents move to the Burk's Falls area, Hall encourages them to also get involved. He says that's fairly easy when the adults have kids who are involved in sports. In those instances it's a simple matter of mom and dad getting involved with the sports organization in some way. “So people won't know you in the beginning, but by getting involved they meet other parents and now you have a shared interest,” he said. “You get to know other people, they get to know you and you become part of the town. And it's not just any town. It's your town. It's your home.” Hall is grateful to two long-time residents of Burk's Falls who got him interested in volunteering and to take on active roles. One is Viola (Vi) Thomas and the other is Barb Marlowe. Years ago, Thomas operated the first welcome centre in Burk's Falls and was instrumental in getting Hall involved with the Santa Claus Parade. That involvement later extended to Winter-fest, with Hall eventually chairing this committee and getting loads of help from Marlowe, who was a town councillor and also treasurer of the Santa committee. Hall says there is great value in recognizing volunteers for their work. As chair of both the Santa Claus Parade and Winter-fest committees, he kept a record of all the volunteers who helped and every five years these people were given appreciation awards signed by Hall and the committee treasurer. “This could be something that they may put up on the wall,” he said. “I've told people, 'I know you may not want it, but do you know how much it means to your mother, father or children?” he said. Hall speaks from personal experience on this point. In 2012 he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 60th anniversary as monarch. Accompanying him to the ceremony was his dad. “My father was a World War II vet in the Canadian navy and the look on his face, you could see the glow,” Hall said. Hall is particularly fond of some volunteer work he did years ago in Ryerson when the township was getting ready to create civic addressing for 911 response service in rural communities. “Me and five other people measured the distance from one house to the next home in Ryerson and all that information we put together was used to develop 911 emergency response and civic addressing,” he said. Hall also was involved with others to rename streets in the township and the direction they chose was to name streets after early pioneers who were historically significant to the region. Hall has taken a step back from chairing committees and cites age as a main reason. But he remains involved as a volunteer with the various groups helping where he canincluding helping the local Royal Canadian Legion branch. Hall is also doing historical research on early families in the Burk's Falls area and he's been able to acquire artifacts that, after being on display at the local library, will head to the museum permanently. He's doing the work on the early pioneers now before he and the older generation pass on because at that point much of the information will be lost. Although Hall doesn't chair committees anymore, he remains heavily involved volunteering on various groups and says along the way and over the years he's “met some very wonderful people.” The Local Champion program runs until the end of the year. Residents from Burk's Falls, Ryerson or Armour who are named the monthly champion receive a $100 gift basket filled with items from local businesses. Residents who would like to nominate an area volunteer can go to http://www.burksfalls.net/announcements/burks-falls-local-champion to fill out the online form.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget