The Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce will, at their annual Gala and Awards Night, be honouring many people in the community who have given back and Don and Marianne Gustafson, who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, epitomize the essence of giving back.
Don, who immediately began speaking about others in the community who may have deserved the honour, has been in Lacombe for 78 years and attended and then taught at Lacombe Composite High School, where he coached football, basketball and pretty much every other sport at one time or another for the entirety of his 30-year career.
Don says he has volunteered for as long as he can remember.
”I started in high school — the neighbours asked me to coach the little league baseball, so I started there. I coached and have been involved continuously. I went from things at church to coaching to the Kinsmen and the latest one has been the Lacombe Athletic Park Association,” he said.
Marianne, who met Don at their LCHS new teacher orientation when she first moved to Lacombe, has volunteered at the hospital, the United Church and summer camps throughout her entire time in Lacombe.
She did not expect to receive the award but said she has been volunteering continuously.
”I started out when I was a counsellor at summer camps. As I got older, I got to direct some of them because I had good teachers and mentors.When I came to Lacombe, since I went to the C.G.I.T. program which is a girls program, they needed a C.G.I.T. leader so they asked me to lead for them. That was through the United Church,” she said.
While Don continued to volunteer with the Kinsmen Club and coach — particularly football and basketball throughout his career, Marianne took over handling the concession at the hospital, after Don’s mother retired from the position. She has continued to volunteer with the hospital auxiliary since then, including the upkeep of the courtyard gardens — which Don often has contributed to as well.
“For the residents and patients there, it is great for their mental health. So many of them stop and say thank you for doing this,” he said.
Don said volunteering is something he and his wife have enjoyed doing together and it has allowed them to be a part of a community of people who give.
“Lacombe is exceptional. I just know that there are a long list of volunteers and it doesn’t matter where you go in the city — you have people who are reaching out. Whether that is the Farmers’ Market, Music in the Park or Neighbourlink — it goes on and on,” he said.
Marianne added, “It is something we always did and it is part of our life and it came from our parents. It was passed down and now our kids and grandchildren are volunteering. It is part of the family.”
Don said a commitment to community and volunteerism is what allows a community to prosper.
“It is easy to build something, but you need to maintain it and make it work. You can build an arena, but you need the people to make it work,” he said.
Marianne added the mentorship she has received in her life is something she is happy to pass down.
“You are always with a special group of people when you volunteer. I have had mentors who are amazing and they taught me a lot,” she said.
Marianne and Don said they will continue to volunteer with the hospital and LAPA respectively, but will also have their hearts open in case something else is needed in their community.
“I know that if someone comes along thinking I could make a contribution, I would probably do it. What that might be, I have no idea,” Don said.
Marianne added they will continue to pass down the legacy of volunteerism to their community and family.
”Our youngest daughter Christine ran the Turkey Supper for St. Stephen’s Church for the last four years; our son Wayne is on the board for the Lacombe Athletic Park; our son Bruce ended up sitting on the board for Aspire Special Needs and now our grandchildren are involved as well,” she said.
“It is about getting them out there to make them realize things don’t just happen: It is about mentorship and showing the next generation”
Don added, “It has been a privilege to be a part of the community. I have got more than I ever gave in terms of experiences, relationships and friendships.”