By Centine Wilbers
Fernie is blessed to have a strong and vibrant crew of local volunteers. Whether raising funds for cancer research, coaching junior hockey, maintaining the hiking and biking trails of the region, or patrolling the ski field, Fernie relies on the contributions of our valued volunteers. Judith Johannsson is one such a person, contributing to a number of significant social causes. A Fernie resident of 12 years, Judith feels volunteering is an important way to give back to the community. “It’s great to give back and be involved with the region,” Judith explains. “It’s personally fulfilling, and can really benefit a large portion of the community.”
As a member of the board of the Fernie Womens’ Centre, Judith assists women of the Greater Fernie region, including Sparwood and Elkford. As an initial point of contact, the centre provides essential services, resources and acts as a drop-in location for women seeking assistance. In addition, Judith volunteers for the regional board for the Options for Sexual Health Clinic. “These services are important to uphold and support, as they benefit so many of the community.”
For the last three years, Judith has been a member of the Official Community Plan Implementation Committee for Fernie. Developed in 2003, the Official Community Plan, or OCP, is a forward-looking policy framework anticipating and addressing issues such as future economic development, housing, transportation, parks as well as the natural and social environment of Fernie. Through the OCP, Judith and the Implementation Committee set up the Sunday Downtown Socials events, supported by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Featuring fun events for children, fashion shows and community fundraisers, the downtown social is a popular attraction for Fernie residents and visitors alike. “I had been trying to set up something like this for years,” says Judith. “With the support of Sarah Parry, and the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, the Sunday Downtown Social enjoyed its opening season last year. It’s a great way for the community to get together, and enjoy the beautiful setting of downtown Fernie.”
Judith feels that there are “so many good volunteers in this community. And you often see the same faces from one volunteer organisation to another.” With so many beneficial and not-for-profit organisations around Fernie and the Elk Valley, Judith is a strong advocate for community involvement. “I would encourage people to seek out volunteer work which interests them, benefits the community and which they feel passionate about.”
In order to recognise the contributions of Judith and the 12.5 million volunteers across Canada who contribute to their local communities, Volunteer Bénévoles Canada has nominated April 15 to 21 as National Volunteer Week.
2012 will be the 68th annual celebration of National Volunteer Week. “This is a great time to start giving back,” says Judith. “And volunteering is such a gratifying experience, it’s something I wish everyone could truly experience.”