St. John Ambulance honours its own after two-year hiatus

·4 min read

HANOVER – St. John Ambulance Grey Bruce Huron branch held its annual honours and awards presentation and year in review on June 15 at the P&H Centre in Hanover.

The branch was honoured to present a Lifesaving Award to Kevin Flynn, an employee of Home Hardware who used his CPR skills to save a life. Flynn described himself as a religious man who didn’t work Sundays – hadn’t worked one in 20 years. Until that one Sunday when he agreed to work, and a customer collapsed.

“I truly feel God was looking out for that man, and I am blessed to be a part of that,” he said.

In addition to Flynn, a number of St. John volunteers received service medals and awards. It was the first time in two years that the honours and awards event was held, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, with many events cancelled during the pandemic, it was the first time many of volunteers had seen each other in those two years. The theme of the event was “family reunion,” and that’s what it felt like – a family pleased and proud to be together once again.

The event was attended by approximately 50 people, including representatives of the Ontario council; special guests; branch; and community services Therapy Dog, Owen Sound, Hanover and Brussels unit volunteers.

Mayor Sue Paterson brought greetings from the Town of Hanover.

John Prno, provincial commissioner, brought greetings on behalf of Ontario council. Prno opened by saying, “It truly is my pleasure to be here in person,” a sentiment echoed by everyone present. Prno noted that COVID dramatically affected St. John volunteers in 2020. Volunteer membership numbers across the province were down by over 500 from the start of the pandemic; volunteer hours were half of what they were in 2019. Public events fell from 4,085 to just over 2,000; instead of providing immediate care to about 5,000 Ontarians in 2020, the number dropped to 736.

“Now, thank goodness, things are improving since the easing of restrictions, so it’s more important than ever to encourage volunteering,” he said.

Prno told the St. John volunteers present, “You make a huge contribution to your community … I’ve had a front row seat in working with a group of great people on Ontario council’s pandemic response, and I’ve seen how adaptive and resilient all of you have been, and how freely you give of yourselves. Whether it was helping with medical supply pickups, food drives, vaccine clinics, the IRCC isolation sites, or helping keep the branch active, there were many, many challenges, and I’d like to thank you all for your efforts during these difficult times. We all know how hard it is to put your hand up to volunteer, when others are running away to hide.”

Among the volunteers honoured for lifetime volunteer hours were Bob Wiersma – 9,000 hours, Thomas Walter – 11,000 hours, Mary Jo Rees – 12,000 hours and Timothy Rees – 17,000 hours.

Wiersma also received his 30-year service bar. Jonathan Peppler received his 15-year service bar. Ten-year service medals were presented to Anna Smith, Cheryl Subject, Christina Motsch, Judith MacArthur and Wendy Donaldson.

A special award is the provincial commissioner’s coin. Prno presented the coin to Tony Alberts.

The George Sterling Ryerson Award for excellence in training was presented to Wiersma, the branch’s instructor-trainer.

The Grey Bruce Huron branch received the Eric Hartley Award for health-care development.

Following the awards presentations, Branch chair Kathy Ermel said, “What a delight to be together – in person.”

She noted the past two years have been hard. When COVID first hit, training stopped. Therapy Dog visits stopped. Medical First Responder event coverage stopped.

“Doors to our facilities were locked and staff were sent home to work. … I have to admit I was worried. What was going to happen to what we had built, all your hard work,” she said. “But like so many families we stayed close, we stayed connected and we persevered. We did it!”

Ermel described how, despite reduced class sizes and increased protocols, instructors trained 4,835 students in 2021.

MFR donations were down, but the community continued to support St. John. Bruce Grey United Way and The Community Foundation Grey Bruce donated toward new training manikins. CFOS and the Bayshore Christmas Fund made a substantial donation. And donations to the Therapy Dog program remained steady.

Among the many accomplishments over the past year, Therapy Dog co-ordinator, Wendy Donaldson and her team comprised of 57 members and their dogs gave 3,215 volunteer hours via virtual visits, window visits, team support and meetings and even eased the stress for many at our local vaccination clinics.

Our MFR divisions, under the leadership of Tim Rees for Hanover, Sam Romyn for Brussels and Mark Carlson for Owen Sound, provided a combined total of 3,007 volunteer hours with 39 active members in total.

Add to that an additional 476 volunteer hours were dedicated by the five members of the board of directors.

In total our branch gave over 6,222 hours to the communities we serve, said Ermel.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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