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Fort Simpson volunteer honoured
Val Gendron receives NWT Outstanding Volunteer Award

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 24, 2012

One of Fort Simpson's most dedicated volunteers was recognized during a special ceremony in the village on May 15.

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Val Gendron, left, is presented with the NWT Outstanding Volunteer Award in the individual category by Tom Williams, deputy minister for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, at a special ceremony held in Fort Simpson. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

On that evening, Tom Williams, the deputy minister of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, presented Val Gendron with the NWT Outstanding Volunteer Award in the individual category. The winners in the other categories received their awards a week earlier in Norman Wells during the NWT Association of Communities' annual general meeting. When Gendron couldn't attend, a decision was made to hold something in the community where she volunteers so much of her time, Williams said.

The awards, created in 1991, recognize individuals and organizations who improve the quality of life for NWT residents through significant voluntary commitment.

Gendron is in a league of her own when it comes to volunteering, said Chris Hewitt, who nominated her for the award.

It's easier to list the things she's not involved in than to count all of the organizations and sports she is part of, Hewitt said.

"I personally don't know where she gets her energy to keep up with all of her interests and commitments. I think she digs deep because she wants to be involved," he said.

Not only is Gendron a dedicated volunteer, but she is also a leader, Hewitt said. Gendron makes events happen and gets other people involved. No matter what the event is, there is normally youths involved and a lot of smiles at the end of the day, he said.

Hewitt said it was easy to nominate Gendron for the award because a lot of people wanted to see her nominated and provided examples of the volunteer work she does.

"I think a lot of youths appreciate her time and a lot of parents too," he said.

This isn't the only award Hewitt nominated Gendron for. He also put her forward for Sport North's Delma Kisoun Memorial Award that recognizes community contributors. Gendron will be receiving that award at a banquet later this month.

Awards, however, are not why Gendron volunteers.

"She doesn't look for recognition, she just wants to be involved," Hewitt said.

Gendron can hardly remember a time when she wasn't volunteering.

She started her volunteering career at the age of approximately 10 in Williams Lake, B.C., when she joined the go-kart racing club. To be part of the club you had to volunteer every Saturday before the races to sweep the track and work at the concession, she said.

Gendron said her mother was a good role model who imparted the importance of contributing through volunteering. When Gendron was a junior forest warden her mother was a leader.

When Gendron first came to Fort Simpson in 1987 as a swimming instructor, she continued volunteering beginning as a minor ball coach. After she moved to the village permanently in 1991, her volunteering efforts really took off.

"I just started a bunch of different things," she said.

Gendron started a t-ball program in 1993 that she ran for approximately four years and also began coaching the figure skating club around the same time. Gendron has also been coaching the Fort Simpson Speed Skating Club for 12 years.

The other sports she's volunteered with include soccer, track and field, cross-country, gymnastics, hockey, golf, curling, cup stacking, swimming and rollerblading. Gendron is also one of the founding members of the Open Doors Society.

Gendron said volunteering with sports is a way to contribute towards building a better community.

Through sports people learn the same skills they need to function in society, including how to be respectful, play by the rules, lose gracefully and be on time, said Gendron. Participation in sports also helps people build self-esteem, develop a healthy lifestyle, make connections and possibly travel.

"That's what sport does, it builds community," she said.

Gendron said one of the reasons she volunteers is because she recognizes that someone needs to spearhead the programs. The number one thing that makes programs work is consistency, she said.

Gendron said she is very honoured to receive the NWT Outstanding Volunteer Award. She thanked her family and friends for always providing help when asked.

"You're not a volunteer without the support of other volunteers," she said. "We all work together and that's what makes a great community."

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