Sarann Press, dressed as a nun for Halloween, with her dad Grenny Uphill and Anna Paskovich at Rocky Mountain Village. Photo Submitted

Local woman is volunteer powerhouse

Volunteering and good will run through Sarann Press’ veins.

Growing up in the South Country, her parents were extremely active in the community and volunteered frequently. They clearly passed this altruistic set of values on to their daughter, who is a fixture in the Elk Valley community.

Press said that the community spirit runs in the family.

“You raise your kids that way so it just continues through the generations.”

Generational giving is something that Press knows plenty about. She volunteers with organizations and events that impact every age group possible. From working extensively with seniors at Rocky Mountain Village, to volunteering with the local 4H club, Press makes sure every community member feels cared for. She even lends a hand to the Fernie chapter of Cycling Without Age, a charitable organization that takes seniors and less able bodied people out for bike rides.

As a 4H leader for the South Country Crafts and Critters club, she’s actively working to inspire youth in our community.

For the past 18 years, Press has been a leader with the 4H club. She is the beef leader as well as the foods leader and admits that she really enjoys it and “truly loves the kids.”

“4H is definitely a learn to do by doing thing – that’s their motto and that’s really how we roll,” she said.

It was her involvement with the 4H club that led Press to spearhead another endeavour.

“We call it our Ag For All Open Show,” she said. In April, the third annual show will take place, giving anyone and everyone a chance to participate in a livestock show. Press said that there isn’t a lot of opportunities for people to show their livestock in the area, and no opportunities at all for people to show hogs. The open show gives everyone an opportunity to both participate and learn about livestock.

This year, for the second day of the event, “every kid learned how to inoculate and how to do sutures,” she explained. They also learned how to wrap horse legs, tube a bloated cow and how to tie proper knots.

The open show isn’t the only popular event that Press launched, however. She is also the founder of the Baynes Lake Burn the Bird fun run.

At one point, Press explained that a group of friends and herself were running to raise money and she was inspired with the idea of hosting a fun run. They started 12 years ago with only about 30 participants. From there, Press said the event blossomed. Now, about 160 people participate in the annual Thanksgiving five or 10 kilometre run.

Between the Thanksgiving fun run, and several holiday themed events at Rocky Mountain Village, Press is kept busy all year long.

When her dad moved to Rocky Mountain Village a few years ago, Press started getting very involved. The first year he was there, she decorated his door for Christmas and noticed that his was the only festive door.

“We couldn’t have that,” she said. “So we did his next door neighbour’s door and then he had another neighbour from Baynes Lake and we even had an ex-conductor so we made his door a train.”

Even though Press’ father passed away, she still decorates doors every year.

“This year, we’re doing it all,” she said. Press and an eager group of volunteers decorated every door at Rocky Mountain Village this holiday season and brought festive joy to the senior residents and the staff.

Press put a call out on Facebook for help with donations, materials and bodies to aid with the door decorating and was flooded with responses.

“Facebook, I think it is a big waste of our time but when I can use it to my advantage, I love it,” she explained. “I threw it on Facebook and said I’m going to do this and… people just jumped right in and that’s incredible.”

Press is certainly a familiar face around Rocky Mountain Village since she does so much more than just decorate doors.

In 2018, Press launched the first Halloween Alley event at the seniors care home. The event saw the seniors community overrun by toddlers in costume for one hour of trick-or-treating in the afternoon.

“We were amazed,” Press said about the first year of the event. “It was the longest hour of our life. It was so many joyful little kids and when you started looking at the seniors, they were just thrilled.”

About 95 kids attended that first year whereas almost 125 made it out this Halloween for the second annual event.

“The moment that warms my heart is that the one carer said she put three people to bed and they were still talking about it that evening and about how much fun it was to see those little kids. They were still talking about their costumes,” said Press.

With so much on the go, Press gives huge credit to the people in her life who support her.

“I have amazing people,” she said. “That’s what allows me to do what I do. It’s because I have a tribe behind me. I think of these fancy ideas and people jump in and help me with them.”

She also notes that knowing so many people can be helpful in other ways.

“I don’t know everything but I know lots of people so I’ll know someone who knows the thing you need to know,” she joked.

It truly is all about community spirit and connection for Press, who encourages anyone interested in volunteering to just jump in and go for it. “Don’t wait for someone to ask you, just do it,” she said.

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Sarann Press with her Halloween and Christmas decorating supplies. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

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