Unsung community leaders celebrated

Pillars of the community come in all ages.

Pillars of the community come in all ages.

Shirley Berry, 77, and Emily Parker-Ristau, eight, proved that on Thursday night when they each received a Pillar of the Community Award at The Leadership Centre of Central Alberta’s first leadership conference, which ran on Thursday and Friday.

Berry, retired president of the Red Deer Clothing Bank, said she hoped their age difference would inspire more people to help others.

“There’s some things in life you’re not rewarded financially for, but the feeling you get from it is sometimes better than those dollars,” Berry said on Friday.

She continues to see the difference that volunteers can make.

As an information booth volunteer at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, she said most people who come to the hospital are under some stress.

“It’s surprising. You give them a smile and they’ll return one,” said Berry, of Red Deer.

Parker-Ristau, a Grade 2 student at Oriole Park School, is helping to make families who face multiple barriers happy by raising money to send them to Disneyland.

She is the CEO and founder of Emily’s Recycle and Dream Foundation.

When she was five, Parker-Ristau raised enough money by collecting recyclables for her and her mother to go to Disneyland.

Priscilla Ristau said on the plane home her daughter asked her if there were other families who can’t afford to go to Disneyland.

“She said, ‘We can show them how. We can help them,’ ” her mom said.

In the last two years, the foundation has sent two families to Disneyland.

Pillar of the Community Awards recognize unique and exemplary contributions to building stronger communities.

The non-profit Leadership Centre runs programs to foster leadership capacity in individuals and organizations in Central Alberta.

“The conference is an opportunity to develop leadership skills, but on a grander scale.

“You don’t have to be in one of our programs. It’s open to everybody,” said Linda Wilson, centre executive director.

The conference attracted 255 people who attended sessions on facilitation skills, coaching skills, personal development and life balance.

“The speakers we bought in really helped that personal leadership development on what’s important for you to keep you centred and help keep you healthy, and how do you motivate and support those around you to be able to do what they need to do.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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