Phil Neufeld has put up a lot of homes, but it was his role in building a better community that was recognized Friday evening.
The charity champion and president of True-Line Contracting was honoured as Citizen of the Year by the Rotary Clubs of Red Deer at a spring gala at the Memorial Centre.
“A reward like this is beyond belief actually,” said Neufeld, 50, in an interview before the official presentation.
“I’m still reacting. I never thought of myself being Citizen of the Year. I consider myself to be just a normal person that’s living in a community and giving back a little bit to a community that we’re proud to live in.”
Shock has given way to pride and gratitude to the community, he added.
“I still think I’m just doing what needs to be done,” said Neufeld, who is married to Sue and has three children.
The Rotary Clubs offered an example of what Neufeld has done to help. He was approached a few years ago to double the size of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter. What was hoped to be a $1.6 million project, came in at $2.2 million. Before fundraisers could put together a Plan B, Neufeld had gone to the sub-trades and raised the needed $600,000. He personally donated $200,000 in management fees.
His knack in encouraging donations from the construction business and leading by example with six figure contributions of his own has been put to good use on numerous other projects including Kinsmen Dream Homes, and for last three years the homes auctioned off during the Festival of Trees. He has also been involved in almost 20 other causes by the Rotary Clubs’ count.
Raised in Lacombe, his parents were deeply involved in the church and when he and his four siblings were young they lived a missionary-style life on various First Nations reserves. “Dad was a teacher and mom was a nurse and they helped out under-privileged people that way.”
Neufeld moved to Red Deer about 30 years ago and it was in the 1990s, that Neufeld tackled his first big project, the Youth and Volunteer Centre. The project was presented to the local construction industry, but local companies were too busy.
“I took a look at the project and felt that we did have time to do it. That kind of got things going.”
The women’s shelter was the next big project and now Neufeld is involved in the latest renovation, a major project to design a children’s area.
Young Citizen of the Year honours went to former Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School student Meagan McLavish.
Now studying science at the University of Alberta with an eye on a medical career, the 18-year-old was recognized for her leadership while on her high school council. She led efforts to establish a leadership class to encourage students to get involved among other achievements.
To aid the homeless, she organized a successful barbecue that has already been repeated and may become an ongoing event.
A successful student, McLavish was awarded a Loran Scholarship last year, one of only 30 chosen from 3,200 applicants. The award is worth $75,000 over four years in university scholarships, living allowances and summer program funding.
“I’m so honoured and humbled honestly and I was so surprised when I found out I won,” said McLavish of her citizen honours.
She was inspired by a desire to give back to the community. “I feel like I’ve gained a lot from the community. The community has basically instilled in me all these values I have right now and it’s helped to shape me into the person I am today.”