Castlegar residents Nettie Stupnikoff and Darlene Kalawsky have been named recipients of the BC Community Achievement Awards — a major feat considering only 36 people were awarded province-wide.
The hard-working volunteers were announced as winners earlier this week from the Office of the Premier, however they found out about the award several weeks ago.
“One afternoon, I get this call and this very nice lady is on the phone and congratulated me … my first response was, ‘is this a joke?’” Stupnikoff recalled.
“I had no idea this was in the works at all,” Kalawsky agreed.
Between the two, a good portion of Castlegar’s volunteer sector is covered.
Stupnikoff is the president of both the Castlegar and District Hospital Foundation and the hospital auxiliary, while Kalawsky is chair of Communities in Bloom, belongs to Friends of the Castlegar Public Library, sits on the board of governors for Selkirk College and is involved with the Castlegar Arts Council and SculptureWalk.
“I do these things because I have a passion for doing what I do,” Kalawsky said. “One of my focuses is to make Castlegar a better place to live.”
Both agreed that although they take the initiative for some projects, such as Stupnikoff with the Castlegar Treasure Shop and Kalawsky with Communities in Bloom, they wouldn’t be able to make as much happen without help.
“When we built our treasure shop, yes I did take the lead in that and did some research … but I had a committee of people with me,” Stupnikoff said.
Recipients of the BC Community Achievement Awards are nominated by someone in their community. Both women don’t know who nominated them at this point.
“I had no idea these people were doing these things behind my back!” Stupnikoff laughed.
Once nominated, an independent advisory council selects the recipients. This year’s council was made of Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom, former Vancouver city councillor Kim Capri and past award recipients Patrick Kelly and George Puil.
“Each of these people has a remarkable record of enhancing the quality of life of residents throughout the province,” Premier Christy Clark said in a statement. “And each truly deserves to be singled out and recognized by all British Columbians for their contributions.”
Kalawsky and Stupnikoff said they don’t volunteer for recognition, but they hope the publicity of the awards will entice more people to volunteer in the community.
“Volunteering keeps one busy and happy,” Stupnikoff said. “This (award) is not only about me but all the volunteers in our auxiliary and all the people in our community.”
“It’s a great way to make friends and find out about your community,” she said. “If you can only give so much time, that’s important too. You can do a little something.”
Both said they give so much of their time to their projects that they’re often asked if they’re paid, or joke that they must be making triple-overtime some days.
“I’m there because I want to be,” Kalawsky said.
This year’s recipients will be recognized with a formal award presentation on April 20 in Victoria.
Stupnikoff plans to make a holiday of it while Kalawsky is looking forward to visiting Butchart Gardens.
But neither has lost sight of to how they got to this point in the first place.
“I could go on and on because it wasn’t just one person or one group of people — it was the community,” Stupnikoff said.
“I feel very honoured and somewhat humbled to be receiving an award of this nature,” Kalawsky said, adding that she is simply doing what she enjoys.
“If you have a passion for something, do it. Make it happen.”