Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston said he wants to meet with members of the Central Alberta Pride Society to restore relations after a councillor's comment caused hurt. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Mayor Johnston: A September to Remember

I want to first start by recognizing and paying honour to September 30. Each year, September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.

Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process, and I was incredibly honoured to be a part of a ceremony held on September 30 in City Hall Park. Lead by Shining Mountains Community Living Services, Little Souls Journey Home was an incredibly moving ceremony that clearly showed the resilience and strong sense of community of our Indigenous community. The blanket created to welcome the children home was breathtaking, and I was so honoured to be able to take part in the celebration.

In the spirit of learning, growing, and to continue the path to reconciliation, The City of Red Deer has and continues to make progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call for Action, in which there are five calls for municipal government.

Truth and Reconciliation is about learning the history and legacy of residential schools, and the many contributions Aboriginal peoples have made, and continue to make to Canadian society. Indigenous children in Canada were removed from their families for over 100 years and sent to institutions known as residential schools. The Red Deer Industrial School operated from 1893–1919, it was located five kilometres west of Red Deer.

Council and I recognize that the work of reconciliation takes time, and we are committed to improving relations between Red Deer’s Indigenous Community and The City of Red Deer, everyday.

Second, I want to take a moment to thank Red Deerians for coming – by the hundreds – to our magnificent downtown on September long weekend to take part in the Meet the Streets festival. It was incredible to see our downtown bustling with people, laughter, entertainment, and fun once again. Centerfest was fantastic and the new murals that paint our downtown landscape are truly remarkable. If you haven’t seen them yet, I encourage you to wander around and see the amazing art that is now gracing our downtown streets.

I want to thank the countless volunteers and artists who made this festival come to life. Choosing to give your time to a community event like this does not go unnoticed, and we couldn’t have these sorts of events without the many, many community minded people we have making our city great.

Choosing to volunteer for your community is a decision of the heart. With so many competing priorities and demands for our time – choosing to volunteer is choosing to make a difference. When you volunteer, you are helping those that need help the most. Whether that be a community clean-up, driving someone to an appointment, preparing a meal, or volunteering for an event such as Meet the Streets – giving your time and skills changes lives and makes a positive impact.

As we settle into fall, and with the holidays creeping up on us – I challenge all Red Deerians to think about volunteerism and what they might be able to offer our community.

Because volunteering means choosing to work without receiving compensation, people often choose to give their time to issues or organizations they feel are important or that they have a special connection to. For example, if you’re a big animal lover you may want to volunteer at a pet shelter. Or perhaps you have been living with or have recovered from an illness and want to dedicate some of your spare time to a charity that helps others living with the same condition. Volunteering like this helps address a social problem that is meaningful to you and provides fulfillment.

Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.

Feeling that you are doing something to benefit others is also a great thing for your mental health. Because volunteer work tends to make people feel more socially connected, it wards off feelings of depression and loneliness. A well-rounded resume includes volunteer work and because employers know the benefits volunteerism has on their employees, they know this says a lot about a person. Volunteering can open more opportunities to have a shared experience with someone, which is often where the best friendships blossom.

And of course, the greatest benefit of volunteering is the reason we do it at all, because it makes a difference. If you are considering volunteering, the key is to find a position that you would enjoy. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. So ask yourself a few questions before taking the plunge. Firstly, really think about which causes you’re passionate about since it means you’re more likely to enjoy and stay committed to the work. Secondly, are you looking for regular volunteering opportunities or would you prefer a one-off project? Thirdly, what skill set can you offer and what can you hope to gain from volunteering? And make sure you have fun because volunteering is important and the benefits are clear, but it is also important to enjoy it.

In fact, if you want to get involved with us here, The City is currently accepting applications for several boards, committees, and commissions. This is your chance to help contribute to Council’s decision-making processes. A Council committee is a committee, commission, board, or other body established by Council under the Municipal Government Act and municipal bylaws. Council committees act in an advisory capacity to Council.

We also recruit for the Red Deer Library Board, Red Deer Regional Airport Authority Board, and the River Bend Golf and Recreation Society Board. To learn more about the different openings and to download application forms go to reddeer.ca/committees.

Volunteers make our community. They build our community and at a time when the world needs you the most, now is the time to find the opportunity that is right for you. If you are already giving your time to our community – THANK YOU! We are better together, and together, we can make Red Deer incredible. For volunteer opportunities, check out volunteerconnector.org or reach out to Volunteer Central.

Ken Johnston is the Mayor of Red Deer.

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