SOUTH BAYMOUTH – Volunteerism has been a part of Gary Brown’s life since he was a teenager and he has since helped with the Manitoulin Tourism Association, the South Baymouth Board of Trade and recreation committees.
“Some things you get asked to do, some you just want to get involved with. I just enjoy working with people,” he says.
He’s far from retired as a volunteer—Mr. Brown still serves on the Tehkummah First Response team, the volunteer fire department, church groups and he is a member of the Little Schoolhouse and Museum board and the Owen Sound Transportation Company’s board.
“I’m always open for new adventures. That’s a big part of volunteering,” he says.
Volunteering with vital community services is a matter of civic pride and, in some ways, a necessity for making Tehkummah and South Baymouth a better place to live.
“It’s more or less just something you have to do. Sure, there might be parts you don’t enjoy, but we need those things in our areas so you take part. In those things I’m part of a real good group of men and women who help out,” says Mr. Brown.
The efforts of volunteers are felt particularly strongly in smaller communities such as Tehkummah.
“If it wasn’t for volunteers, we wouldn’t have a lot of the things we do have. We probably wouldn’t have libraries, museums and that stuff,” he says. “The township depends a great deal on their volunteers. When I served as reeve, that was for sure and I’m sure the appreciation is still there with the present council.”
His 35-year service as reeve is a significant part of his volunteer contributions and he says he greatly enjoyed the role until it became too much to handle.
“I guess I was motivated by issues that I thought I could work on better. That’s what got me into it and back when I started, it was hard to get anybody to (be on council),” he says.
The volunteer fire department and first response team have had impacts beyond Tehkummah itself, too. Many junior people join their ranks to learn the craft and have since become full-time firefighters, paramedics and registered nurses.
“We’re pretty proud of our people who have gone on and done these things,” says Mr. Brown, adding that volunteering should be a badge of honour and a good way to give back.
“Get out there and get involved. It can be fun, it can be trying. The benefit is knowing we’ve done our best, done something that’s going to help somebody or the community. You have to be driven to it and have to want to do it, but it’s better than sitting at home and watching TV. It’s the real thing,” he says.
Mr. Brown says Tehkummah’s first responders have saved lives, despite the occasional hardship. Their work in building their community has saved the township thousands of dollars and its many volunteers continue to support infrastructure projects such as the upcoming roof replacement on the museum in South Baymouth.
Despite his contributions, Mr. Brown stresses that no one volunteer should be celebrated when the major projects involve dozens of equally committed individuals.
“I think we all deserve to be recognized, all the volunteers … they’re the ones that we have to congratulate. I’m just one of many,” says Mr. Brown.